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Righetti flexes her muscle

Published: Sun, May 15, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Two down, two to go.

With former Mahoning County Commissioner David Ludt and former county Administrator George Tablack bearing the scars of her political assault, Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti can now be expected to turn her attention to Prosecutor Paul Gains and Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, both of whom will up for re-election next year and will face challengers.

And, Rimedio-Righetti will go after anyone who attempts to punish a close friend of hers, Danielle O’Neill, an employee at the board of elections whose job performance is again being called into question.

Since the commissioners manage the county’s general fund, the threat of financial retribution is ever present.

But the attack on Ludt, Tablack, who also was the budget director, Gains and Traficanti is more primal politically. The four were the key participants in the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former South Side Medical Center, which is now home to the Job and Family Services Agency.

The relocation of JFS from Garland Plaza, owned by the Cafaro Co., caused a political firestorm with county officeholders taking sides. The then influential company president, Anthony Cafaro Sr., did all he could to stop the JFS move to Renaissance Place.

The fallout of the battle will be felt for quite some time since Cafaro and six others, including McNally and another elected official, are defendants in a state criminal trial. They have been charged with criminal conspiracy.

The defendants are: Cafaro Sr., now retired from the company; his sister, Flora, an officer of the Cafaro Co.; Commissioner McNally; Auditor Michael Sciortino; former Treasurer John Reardon; former JFS Director John Zachariah; and, Atty. Martin Yarvocik.

Public trough

Rimedio-Righetti has spent her entire working life feeding at the public trough. She joined the board of elections in July 1970 when she was 18 years old and retired with a two-year buyout in August 1999 at age 47 — with a full pension.

She then ran for the council seat in Youngstown’s 4th Ward and served seven years before challenging Ludt, a 12-year veteran of county government, in the May 2010 Democratic primary. She won.

But it was how she went about ousting him that provided a glimpse into her political philosophy. It can be summed up thusly: Take no prisoners.

Despite her being a professional public sector employee, she railed against Ludt’s performance in office and brilliantly made Tablack an issue.

She sensed that the Democratic Party precinct committeemen and women, many of them union members or with ties to government, resented Tablack’s no-nonsense approach to departmental budgets and his insistence that the county embrace government accounting principles. He also was highly critical of the lack of uniform salary schedules and workplace rules. He made enemies because he was rocking the boat and argued that the status quo was not sustainable.

Rimedio-Righetti’s winning the party’s endorsement over a long-time Democratic officeholder was revealing. She made no secret of the fact that if elected, Tablack would be gone. She seemed to know that McNally, who has admitted to being close to the Cafaro family, would join her in going after the administrator/budget director.

Again she won — and Tablack is history.

Party endorsement

That’s why speculation about her targeting Gains and Traficanti isn’t idle. Youngstown City Prosecutor Jay Macejko has announced that he will challenge Gains next year, but it won’t be a cakewalk. The county prosecutor has a strong following within the party, and Chairman David Betras has made it clear that incumbent officeholders who have been faithful Democrats deserve to be endorsed.

Thus, it could come down to a battle between the chairman and a commissioner who obviously sees herself as queen of the hill. It would be an interesting fight.

It’s noteworthy that Rimedio-Righetti’s claim to fame is the fact that she has never held a private sector job. But, she believes she can run the county.

Tablack, a certified public accountant, is an acknowledged expert in government financing in Ohio. Yet, he was unceremoniously drummed out by a person with five months’ experience as a commissioner and a lawyer who is a defendant in a criminal trial.

That’s brazen.

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