Engineer’s office requires a top-to-bottom evaluation

Mahoning County Engineer Richard Marsico has expressed “surprise and disappointment” at not receiving the endorsement of the county Democratic Party’s central and executive committee, resulting in his decision to leave office when his term ends in December.

Did Marsico not expect that he would be punished for granting pay increases of $70,242 to five engineers on his staff and then arguing that the county engineer’s office is independent of the general fund because it gets its money from gasoline tax, license plate fees and fines? Who does Marsico think pays the tax, fees and fines?

In an editorial early last year when the county engineer and county Prosecutor Paul Gains granted pay raises to some of their employees in the midst of a national economic recession and a reduction in state funding for local governments, we had this to say: “Gains, Marsico and every other officeholder be warned: Get with the program, or you’ll be trampled in the rush by private-sector taxpayers to oust you.”

Marsico is on his way out, and Gains’ political future looks bleak. The county prosecutor, seeking a fifth four-year term, also failed to win the endorsement of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, which embraced Youngstown City Prosecutor Jay Macejko.

Both Macejko and Patrick Ginnetti, a political newcomer who won the party’s endorsement over Marsico, used the pay raises as the defining issue.

The central and executive committee is made up of precinct committeemen and women and others who operate at the political grass roots level. Their decisions on endorsement reflect the attitude of the larger community.

Unlike Marsico, Gains has said he intends to remain in his race for re-election and will leave his future up to the 57,000 Democrats who are expected to vote in the March 6 primary. He will find himself being forced to explain the pay raises at every public event he attends. That isn’t a good political position to occupy.

Ginnetti, on the other hand, will become county engineer — by default. Not bad for an individual who has never run for public office before.

But while there won’t be a contested primary and perhaps not even a general election — there is no Republican candidate and an independent would have to submit 1,000 signatures to be on the ballot — the taxpayers of Mahoning County deserve to know how the new engineer intends to regain the public’s trust in the office.

Comprehensive evaluation

We would suggest that one of Ginnetti’s first acts should be to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the employees, the equipment and the roads and bridges under the engineer’s care.

The complaints about the poor condition of the county’s infrastructure are unending. We’re sure Ginnetti has heard them. Likewise, the charges that workers in the engineer’s office don’t earn their keep may be an exaggeration, but we hear them regularly.

Then there’s the issue of certain staffers being permitted to drive county vehicles, even though their jobs do not require them to be on call 24/7.

And because the pay raises granted by Marsico led to his undoing, Ginnetti should conduct an analysis of the payroll. What qualifications do individuals have for the jobs they’re doing? How do their wages and benefits compare with tthose of similiar-size county engineers’ offices?

Ginnetti comes from the private sector, and it will be interesting to see whether he is able to apply that experience to the public sector.

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