By Peter H. Milliken
City Prosecutor Jay Macejko should retain the endorsement of the Mahoning County Democratic Party for county prosecutor, said the party’s vice chairwoman.
A derogatory text message about President Barack Obama has been attributed to Macejko or one of his assistant prosecutors in documents released to the media by a supporter of Macejko’s opponent, incumbent prosecutor Paul J. Gains.
“At this point, we don’t see any evidence that he [Macejko] sent that message,” said Jaladah Aslam, party vice chairwoman.
Macejko has denied sending that message and said he never saw it until Feb. 13.
“I think it’s deplorable. I think it’s ridiculous. As an African-American, I’m extremely offended by that comment about our president,” Aslam said of the message.
Aslam, who also is president of the Youngstown-Warren Black Caucus, a local minority political group, said that caucus discussed the Obama message at a Tuesday meeting and decided to continue its endorsement of Macejko in the March 6 Democratic primary.
“Our position is that we stay where we are right now [concerning the endorsement of Macejko]. If, for some reason, any further evidence comes out, we will be convening,” she said of the caucus.
If Macejko turns out to be the author of the Obama message, the caucus “absolutely should and will” rescind its endorsement of Macejko. Gains is seeking a fifth-consecutive four-year term as county prosecutor.
The message was released from a court file in a lawsuit against Macejko and the city by Bassil Ally, an assistant city prosecutor, who alleged he was discriminated against based on his Muslim faith.
The city settled the suit by giving Ally a $110,000 lump sum and a $4,000 annual pay raise, and a federal judge found Ally suffered discrimination and retaliation based on his religion.
Besides the Obama text and the Ally lawsuit, another lawsuit against the city is looming large in the race for county prosecutor.
That suit, which seeks at least $50,000 in damages, was filed last April by Debra J. Byrd, a city law department secretary, against the city and its law director, Iris Torres-Guglucello, who has since retired.
In 21 WFMJ-TV’s Wednesday debate between the candidates, Gains said of Macejko: “He has been city prosecutor for six years. He supervises six employees. Two of those six have already filed suit against the city. One has gone to a $100,000 judgment on discrimination and retaliation, and the other is pending.”
Byrd’s lawsuit, which is pending before Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, alleges city officials wouldn’t accommodate her work schedule while she was being treated for cancer because she is black.
Byrd also alleges the unfair treatment was in retaliation for her support of Ally. After she refused to sign an affidavit supporting the city against Ally, Byrd said she “experienced retaliation in the form of unwarranted complaints about her work and reprimands.”
Guglucello denied the city discriminated against Byrd.
Macejko is not named as a defendant in the Byrd lawsuit, and he is mentioned favorably within it as a supervisor who was willing to accommodate Byrd’s medical needs.
Guglucello, however, told Byrd she’d have to take part-time status or an unpaid leave of absence and lose her health-care benefits because she couldn’t work 40 hours every week, the lawsuit said.
The city, which had advanced sick time to at least three white employees in 2009, refused to advance it to Byrd, the suit said.
Byrd was put on part-time status and lost her health benefits in September 2009, but her full-time schedule and health benefits were reinstated early in 2010, the suit says.
While working parttime, Byrd had to pay for her own health insurance, the suit said.