By David Skolnick
Bret Hartup, an assistant city prosecutor at the center of a controversial text-message investigation, is the second person in the prosecutor’s office to be fired in two days.
And there could be more city attorneys no longer on the job, said Law Director Anthony Farris and new city Prosecutor Dana Lantz.
“There’s no decision on anyone else at this time,” Farris said Friday. “The investigation is over, but the assessment of at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of the mayor is ongoing.”
Mayor Charles Sammarone fired Hartup, a six-year assistant prosecutor who made $61,620.52 in annual salary, on Friday.
That came a day after Sammarone fired Prosecutor Jay Macejko, a six-year employee who made $68,375.06 in annual salary.
Like Macejko, city officials wouldn’t say the text message was the reason Hartup was fired.
Hartup was the recipient of a controversial text message about President Barack Obama.
That April 7, 2009, message was a key component of an internal city investigation into the fallout from a federal discrimination lawsuit, filed against the city by Bassil Ally, an assistant city director.
Hartup’s cellphone log, released Friday by the city, shows he received the text message.
But the city refused to disclose who sent the message.
The text also was included in documents related to the discrimination lawsuit. Hartup was asked to provide a log of text messages he sent and received from Macejko.
Macejko repeatedly has said he didn’t send the offensive message though he admitted he wrote other insulting messages to Hartup about Ally.
But, he’s said, they were “absolutely not” racial, and they were made in a “moment of frustration” with Ally.
Sammarone promoted Lantz from first assistant law director/housing inspector, a job that pays $66,040.52 in annual salary, to prosecutor, which pays $68,375.06 a year, on Thursday. The appointment is effective Monday, but Lantz already was doing the work of the prosecutor Friday.
Farris, among the three on the investigation team that reported its findings to the mayor, wouldn’t say the text message was the reason Hartup was fired.
“No cause need be attributed; no aspersion should be cast,” he said.
Lantz said, “We’re moving the office in a different direction. We’re starting with a clean slate. [Hartup is the] only one to go now. There are other evaluations that need to be made.”
The firing, Lantz said, isn’t a reflection on Hartup’s legal abilities.
“We’re all subject to” being fired in the law office, Lantz said. “We’re all at-will hires. We’re always under review.”
Without Macejko and Hartup, the city’s law office is going to be short-staffed for a while.
The mayor could hire more part-time or full-time lawyers, or make some part-time employees full time, Farris said.
Lantz, a 14-year city employee, handled criminal-court matters Friday, and Farris will help during the next two weeks as Sammarone decides how to increase the city’s law staff.
Lantz was the subject of a professional disciplinary proceeding in 2005.
The Ohio Supreme Court gave her a six-month suspended sentence for her failure to timely respond to an October 2002 grievance filed by one of her former private-practice clients. The Mahoning County Bar Association later found the grievance to be unsubstantiated.
“I didn’t answer in time,” she said Friday. The state Supreme Court “found no misconduct. It was unfounded, but I was at fault for not answering in time.”
Farris said he had “no concerns about Dana serving as prosecutor and no concerns over Dana’s Ohio Supreme Court disciplinary issue. She’s a professional.”
Contributor: Peter H. Milliken