As Santa Claus (Father Christmas to our Anglophile readers) goes over the list of Mahoning Valley politicians to decide who has been naughty and who has been nice, one name is sure to get a disapproving grunt from him: Jay Macejko. The former prosecutor for the city of Youngstown pushed the bounds of decency in his race for Mahoning County prosecutor against incumbent Paul Gains. For that he deserves a lump of coal.
As for who was nice in 2012 Valley politics, the gift goes not to an individual, but to a group: The Republicans — in Columbus. (Yes, that’s Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras screaming like a banshee). More about this later.
Why is Macejko deserving of Santa’s disapproval? Because his behavior during the campaign for the Democratic nomination for county prosecutor gave new meaning to the word “sleazy.”
It began in January when the city prosecutor since 2006 tossed out a comment about county Prosecutor Gains that was so inflammatory it brought an audible gasp from the audience at a candidate forum.
While articulating the differences between him and the incumbent and detailing how he would operate the office differently, Macejko said he would show up for work every day and that he would be “sober.”
Gains, who was in the audience, asked Democratic Party Chairman Betras, “Did he just call me a drunk?”
To which the party chief replied, “It sounded like it.”
When that incident was detailed in this space, Macejko, rather than acknowledge his faux pas, decided to spin the comment.
He insisted that in using the word “sober” he was not accusing Gains of showing up for work drunk. Rather, he said, the word was meant to convey his belief that the job of county prosecutor required a certain mindset. “Sober” to him meant level-headed.
No one bought that tortured explanation.
And neither did they buy his version of what occurred in the city prosecutor’s office that triggered a lawsuit filed by Assistant Prosecutor Bassil Ally, a Muslim, who alleged religious discrimination. Macejko, former Mayor Jay Williams, former Law Director Iris Guglicello and the city of Youngstown were named as defendants.
Despite denials of wrongdoing, the case was settled with a judgment that resulted in Ally’s being paid $110,000 and given a $4,000 raise. Macejko also wrote a letter of apology to his employee — while insisting that he did not discriminate against him. He took no responsibility for the lawsuit being filed.
And then there was the racist comment about President Obama that was in a log of text messages retrieved from the cellphone of Assistant Prosecutor Bret Hartup. The messages were submitted to the court in response to a subpoena from Ally’s lawyers, who asked for a record of texts between the city prosecutor and the assistant prosecutor.
Macejko denied seeing the Obama entry and insisted that he did not send it. He speculated that it could have been “spam.”
Again, no one bought that unbelievable explanation.
Gains won the Democratic primary with votes to spare.
And Mayor Charles Sammarone subsequently fired Macejko as city prosecutor.
As for the Republicans being nice, their control of the Ohio General Assembly has worked to Youngstown’s advantage.
The third judgeship in the city municipal court has finally been eliminated — more than two decades after the idea was first broached. Democrats in control of the Legislature at the time refused to do what city officials wanted.
But, thanks to the GOP leadership in the House and Senate, Republican Gov. John Kasich and Republican Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the judgeship is no more.
As for Democratic Chairman Betras’ cry of despair, let us stipulate (in Betraspeak) that he stuck his neck out by pushing for the elimination of the position. Yes, he got the ball rolling by writing a letter to O’Connor urging her to lead the charge for getting rid of the position. But, why the constant need for reaffirmation?
However, in the spirit of the holidays we’ll toss him a bone. Well done, Mr. Chairman. You owe the Republicans.