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Gains is preferred in race for Mahoning County prosecutor

Published: Sun, February 26, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

In his 15-plus years as Mahoning County prosecutor, Paul Gains has compiled a record that is both positive and negative. But there’s one aspect of Gains’ tenure as the county’s chief lawyer that not even his detractors can credibly challenge: His honesty.

Some readers may wonder why we think it so unusual that a member of the criminal justice system would be honest. The answer lies in the political history of the county. When judges, a prosecutor and a sheriff are convicted of taking bribes, residents are justified in putting a premium on trust when it comes to our elected officials.

In examining Gains’ service in office, we came across this simple but revealing admonition from him to his staff of assistant prosecutors: Follow the law.

There’s nothing in his record to indicate that he does not practice what he preaches.

We applied that principle in our evaluation of the race for the Democratic nomination in the March 6 primary. Gains is being challenged by Youngstown City Prosecutor Jay Macejko, who has been in the news lately not because of his campaign platform but because he was sued by an employee for violating the law.

Macejko has been city prosecutor since 2006, and before that was an assistant county prosecutor under Gains.

While he has attempted to make the incumbent’s record the issue in the race, there are too many questions surrounding Macejko’s management style that voters deserve to have answered.

Because the city prosecutor has never run for election before — he was appointed to the position by former Mayor Jay Williams — he has not been exposed to a public vetting.

However, the lawsuit filed by assistant city prosecutor Bassil Ally alleging religious discrimination has shed light on the operation of the office. Macejko, along with the city of Youngstown, former Mayor Williams and former Law Director Iris Guglicello, were sued in federal court. The documents pertaining to the case remain under seal, but the fact is that the case was settled with a judgment that resulted in Ally’s being paid $110,000 and given a $4,000 raise. In addition, Macejko wrote a letter of apology to his employee.

Nonetheless, the city prosecutor insists he did not discriminate against Ally and that the settlement was negotiated with the city’s insurance provider. He takes no responsibility for it.

Likewise, he has refused to take responsibility for a racist comment about President Barack 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 denies seeing the Obama entry, insisting that he did not send it. He has speculated that it could have been “spam.” His denial defies logic; he has authenticated the text log by acknowledging that he sent derogatory texts about Ally to Hartup contained in the log.

Independent investigation

In light of the information that has been made public, Gains has called on Mayor Charles Sammarone to fire the city prosecutor. We aren’t willing to go that far given that most of the documents that could fill in a lot of the blanks in this sordid tale remain under seal. However, the mayor’s decision to launch an independent investigation to determine if Macejko’s behavior was so egregious as to damage the city’s credibility means he has not bought the prosecutor’s explanation.

Last Sunday, The Vindicator published a front-page in-depth story about the county prosecutor’s race, detailing each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses and their records as public officials.

Given the unanswered questions about Macejko’s clash with Ally and his text exchanges with Hartup, we cannot consider him for our endorsement for county prosecutor.

But even if we could overcome our misgivings about him, we still would find it difficult to select him over Gains when both their records and work experience are scrutinized.

We, therefore, endorse the incumbent with this reminder to him: You are responsible for everything that goes on in your office.

Gains has said that he has been distracted in recent years by civil lawsuits against the county, including the one relating to overcrowding in the county jail. Those issues have now been resolved, so we would expect him to be involved in the day-to-day management of the office.

We have also criticized him for the pay raises he gave some of his employees, even though he kept them within his budget. We would hope that he recognizes the reality of today’s economy and appreciates the anger that private-sector taxpayers feel towards public- sector employees because of their wages and benefits, including lucrative pension plans.

All things considered, The Vindicator endorses Paul Gains for the Democratic Party nomination. No Republican has filed in the race.


1Photoman(1246 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

With this endorsement the Vindicator dances to the same old tune of party politics. We keep doing the same things, making the same mistakes and tolerating what lies within our court system yet we expect different and better results. It is no wonder that we the people have such a high level of frustration with government.

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2mishmash(333 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

An incumbent MUST run on his record and after 15 years, Gains' record is one to question, let alone his campaign does not even address the such.

This is exactly why we have elections every few years, to judge the incumbent on what they have done. This smear type campaign that both Gains & the Vindicator has done to Macejko calls questions to be answered.

What kind of relationship does This Prosecutor have with the local paper to warrant their undying support for this many years after this many SNAFUS.

The Vindicator is wrong on this one.

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3juggygails(24 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Do you know how many stupid text messages that are just forwarded from phone to phone that are out there? I get dozens of stupid comments jokes and "unflatering" pictures from people that I hardly know but happen to have my cell phone number. The fact that Gains and now the Vindy is basing his campaign on this is pathetic. Anyone who has had any dealings with Jay Macejko knows that he is one of the most effective procecuters that this area has. Anyone who is against him is either someone that has a vested interest in Gains's reelection or has been on the receiving end of Jay's prosecution. As far as Sammarone not buying Jay's "story", anyone that knows Sammarone knows that he is the ultimate a## coverer and is in survival mode as he winds down his 30+ year career. He knows exactly what to say, Pending investigation? Please. Sammarone knows that Gains is in trouble. I am not the only one that places absolutely zero value on a Vindy endorcement. Weren't they just stringing Gains up on Federal Plaza just a couple of months ago for the raises he gave out. Hey what ever sells papers right?

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4Billweaver480(62 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

It is quite interesting that prosecutors in Macejko's office got raises in November! Look at the Vindicator article on the endorsement. Jay is in total denial that he did anything wrong. Take time to look at the evidence in the link below then post your conclusion .


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5AtownAugie(884 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

Seems Jay exhibits some of the beliefs of a famous Democract from the 60's: Bull Connor, of Birmingham, Alabama. If Jay needs a nickname, how about Jay "Bull Connor" Macejko? Has a certain flair to it. And perhaps a certain ring of truth.

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6Peregrine(47 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

"Gains pursued criminal prosecutions against people who disagreed with the purchase of Southside hospital without due diligence." It wasn't the lack of due diligence that scuttled the Oakhill prosecution, it was the Feds. Did you know that not only is the County prosecutor responsible for criminal cases, but that office also has a civil division the oversees all legal aspects of the county operation including bond issuance, liabilities, contracts, adherence Mahoning County departments to Ohio code to name a few. What are Macejko's credentials to take over that task?

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7AnotherAverageCitizen(1193 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

I still feel newspaper should not endorse any person, place or thing. The papers job is to report the FACTS. Not just the facts they want to report. The paper should not take sides on issues. A good paper would have reporters on both sides, so the public can be FAIRLY informed.

Who really cares who the paper endorces?

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8Billweaver480(62 comments)posted 4 years, 4 months ago

The site below tells it all about Jay.


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