Firing of Prosecutor Macejko is a cautionary tale for others

Youngstown Mayor Charles P. Sammarone had no choice but to fire city Prosecutor Jay Macejko, given the overwhelming evidence of his lack of judgment as a manager. As the mayor put it Thursday when he announced his decision, “The actions displayed in the prosecutor’s office do not meet my standards.”

But while we support Macejko’s firing — we expressed our misgivings about him in an editorial in February — the mayor’s failure to lay out in detail what the prosecutor did, or failed to do, is cause for concern.

Indeed, the absence of a written report from the three individuals appointed by Sammarone to investigate the prosecutor is unacceptable. It flies in the face of the mayor’s pledge since taking office in August to conduct the people’s business in the open. We have praised the veteran city politician for what he has done to shed light on the operation of city government, but he is now in danger of squandering the goodwill he has earned.

Why is a written report important? For the simple reason that the public deserves to know what Macejko did to undermine the credibility of the prosecutor’s office and whether he was telling the truth when he feigned ignorance about a racist cell phone text message about President Obama.

As we said in the February editorial when we endorsed Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains for the Democratic Party nomination over his challenger — Macejko — the city prosecutor’s denial about sending or seeing the Obama text “defies logic.” The editorial pointed out that Macejko had authenticated the text log — it was retrieved from the cell phone of Assistant Prosecutor Bret Hartup — by acknowledging that he sent derogatory texts about another assistant prosecutor, Bassil Ally.

After the log was made public, Gains, who is completing his 14th year in office and is assured another term because he has no opposition in the November general election, called on the mayor to fire Macejko.

Religious discrimination

We weren’t willing to go that far, given that most of the documents that could fill in the blanks were under court seal. The documents pertain to a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by Ally against Macejko, the city of Youngstown, former Mayor Jay Williams and former Law Director Iris Guglicello. The case was settled with a judgment that resulted in Ally receiving a $110,000 payment and a $4,000 raise.

Macejko wrote a letter of apology to his assistant prosecutor.

After the March 6 primary, which Gains won by a mere 561 votes, the federal judge in the Ally case unsealed the documents.

The religious discrimination lawsuit, the derogatory texts about Ally and the Obama racist comment point to an individual who ignored the guiding principle of good management: Lead by example.

There’s a cautionary tale in the Macejko saga, namely, that public officials, especially those in high-ranking positions, must ensure the people’s business is conducted honestly and fairly. They also must treat all their employees alike.

The mayor has appointed Dana Lantz, first assistant prosecutor with 14 years’ experience in the office, to succeed Macejko. On Friday, Lantz and city Law Director Anthony Farris announced that the mayor had fired Hartup.

We would hope the new prosecutor impresses upon the mayor the need for a full public airing of the text messages between Macejko and Hartup.

A record from Hartup’s cell phone provider shows that he was the recipient of the racist Obama comment. City officials know who sent it, but won’t identify the individual. Why not?

The public has a right to know.

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