Betras calls Chamber chief ‘ungrateful hypocrite’

By David Skolnick


The Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman calls the head of the area’s chamber of commerce “an ungrateful hypocrite” for co-hosting a fund-raising event for John Kasich, Republican candidate for governor.

“To be frank, take your precious chamber and shove it up your commerce,” Democratic Chairman David Betras wrote in an e-mail to Tom Humphries, president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

Betras has withdrawn his law firm as a member of the chamber, he’s personally resigned from its government-affairs council and wrote in the e-mail that the agency “can expect no support from the local Democratic Party as long as I am the chairman and [Humphries is] the head of the chamber. I will not attend any breakfasts or lunches or any mixers. I do not respect the position you have taken or you personally.”

Humphries called Betras’ e-mail “unprofessional and frankly inaccurate,” adding “I don’t believe I am an ungrateful hypocrite.”

Humphries said the e-mail fits with Betras’ personality of “shoot first and then aim.”

Betras told The Vindicator that he wrote the e-mail because Humphries is “the quarterback of the Valley’s economic-development team,” and he shouldn’t be “choosing sides” in political races by helping to raise money for a candidate.

Humphries is among about a half-dozen co-hosts of a Monday fundraiser for Kasich at the Warren home of Sam Covelli, a prominent local businessman.

Campaign contributions from Humphries are fine, but he crossed the line by co-hosting the Kasich event, Betras said.

Based on his actions, Betras said Humphries should no longer be the head of the chamber, and he will lobby public officials to no longer fund the chamber until the agency selects a new leader.

Humphries said he’s had issues with the administration of Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat who used to represent a portion of the Mahoning Valley while in the U.S. House.

One of the key problems, Humphries said, is Strickland’s administration refused in 2007 to hire his Warren-based company, Data Voice Systems Review, for a contract with the state’s lottery commission. Humphries said his proposal would have saved the state $5 million, about $3.4 million more than the one selected, and Data Voice was the only Ohio company to submit a proposal.

“I was upset; I’m still upset, he said. “I hate to talk about that. I never let it affect the chamber. It’s one of the issues [I have with Strickland]. There are many, many things, but that’s the one that broke the camel’s back.”

Humphries said he contacted the state’s Department of Administrative Services and the governor’s office after his company didn’t receive the contract but not since then.

Betras said Humphries is ignoring the assistance Strickland has provided the Valley.

Betras pointed to Strickland’s assistance with V&M Star’s $650 million expansion project, the new Chevrolet Cruze line at the Lordstown General Motors complex as well as creation of a business incubator in Warren and the Eastern Gateway Community College.

“You are like the horse in the ‘Wizard of Oz’ that changes colors depending on what is convenient and good for ‘Tom,’” Betras wrote to Humphries. “When Ted Strickland wins, as he will, you will have rendered yourself ineffective.”

Humphries said Betras should have spoken to him face-to-face rather than send him an e-mail.

“Everyone’s entitled to their opinions,” Humphries said. “It’s a democracy, and I’m expressing my personal opinion. I am supporting Kasich.”

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