Macejko to learn his fate today
By David Skolnick
Mayor Charles Sammarone will decide today the fate of city Prosecutor Jay Macejko and possibly others based on an investigation into controversial text messages found on a city employee’s cellphone.
Sammarone will have an 11 a.m. press conference today in his office at city hall to announce his decision.
The mayor wasn’t tipping his hand Wednesday.
When asked if he had a decision, Sammarone told The Vindicator: “It’s like when you discipline your kids at home. When your kids ask to go to the movies, you say, ‘No.’ When they ask an hour later, you might say something else. Until the final decision is made, you can always change your mind. That final decision will be made at 11 o’clock” today.
Sammarone said late Wednesday that he hasn’t told his decision to anyone though a three-member panel investigating the matter “may have an idea” on what he’ll decide.
Macejko couldn’t be reached by the newspaper late Wednesday to comment.
The investigation is a fallout from a lawsuit filed against the city by Bassil Ally, a Muslim of Middle Eastern descent, who is an assistant city prosecutor.
The city settled the case before it went to trial with Ally receiving a $110,000 lump-sum payment and a promotion with a $4,000 annual raise.
Ally contended in the lawsuit that he was the victim of discrimination.
Among the many pieces of evidence related to the case was an April 7, 2009, text message that was on the cellphone of Bret Hartup, an assistant city prosecutor.
The text read: “I just received my Obama stimulus package. It was 3 pieces of chicken, a pack of kool-aid and a dime bag. Did u get yours?”
A federal judge in the Ally case required Hartup to provide text messages between him and Macejko.
Macejko has insisted he didn’t send the inappropriate text and didn’t see it until Feb. 13 of this year. He also suggested the message might be spam.
Macejko acknowledged he wrote insulting text messages to Hartup about Ally but said they were “absolutely not” racial or ethnic slurs, and were made in “a moment of frustration” concerning an issue with Ally.
The Obama text message was one of the key criticisms against Macejko during a close Democratic primary race he lost in a bid to defeat Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains.
City Law Director Anthony Farris and Jonathan Huff, executive director of the city’s Human Relations Commission, two members of the investigative panel, declined to discuss the issue. Police Lt. Brian Butler of internal affairs was the third member.
The panel primarily used documents from that federal case, unsealed by a judge last week, and interviewed city employees when investigating the matter, Sammarone said.
The three started the investigation March 28 and, according to the mayor, met with him Tuesday to discuss the investigation.
Sammarone said the panel wanted to discuss the matter further with him Wednesday. That delayed the decision, originally scheduled to be made Wednesday, by a day.
Farris and Deputy Law Director Anthony Donofrio did confirm there is no letter from Sammarone or anyone else in the city administration in Macejko’s personnel file regarding disciplinary action related to this investigation.