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Marsico bows out; timing is perfect

Published: Sun, January 15, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

The timing this week of Richard Marsico’s decision to not seek re-election as Mahoning County engineer was as ironic as it was appropriate.

It was appropriate in that our last year was spent highlighting questionable county pay raises and other spending.

In the cross hairs of my columns here and various expressions of outrage via public meetings and public letters were Marsico and county Prosecutor Paul Gains.

The final nail was the Democratic Party handing its endorsement over to a newcomer and not Marsico.

The irony in all of this?

It was one year ago that the first stories of Marsico’s raises were printed here. The reporting went:

“In the office of Engineer Rich Marsico, 25 managers received raises:

“Nineteen of the raises were between 2 percent and 5 percent.

“Four of the best raises were to his top managers. They all received 11 percent and 12 percent raises.”

When Marsico and Marilyn Kenner interviewed with me a year ago, I don’t believe any of the three of us believed it would result in his losing Democratic Party support.

The other irony in Marsico’s timing is what Kenner said in an unrelated story last week.

It was a story about the equipment that protects us on the roads we drive on in wintry weather. The county just bought three new vehicles, and in last week’s story, Kenner offered:

“We’d like to replace [trucks] every five years, but, obviously, we just don’t have the funds to do that.”

It was very similar to a comment Marsico made last summer on the topic of road paving. It was about the county finally repaving the Baghdad-ish North Lima Road (which, admittedly, was not as bad as the Lyons Boulevard atrocity on the Struthers/Poland line area that the county finally repaired after years of complaints).

Marsico said, “Ideally, we would repave roads every 10 to 15 years. But with costs now, it’s more like 20 to 25 years.”

Let me interpret both:

We would have more plows on roads that were more freshly paved if we did not hand out clothing allowances to clerical workers and 12 percent pay raises.

We do many stories each year that result in civic action. More times than not, they are charitable efforts: We profile a group or a family in need; you all step up to help.

Not often does this happen, where we point out a problem in the power structure, and change happens. In a previous place, I remember a government search group anointing a person as a top police chief candidate.

We researched his troubled background, reported it, and within days, he was off the list. He should not have been the top candidate.

For such change to occur, however, someone has to step up, and last week that someone was the Democratic leadership.

They said no to Marsico and Gains.

Don’t expect Gains to go the Marsico route. He’ll cowboy it all the way to the end.

(Now, I cannot shake the image I have of him walking the courthouse halls, in slow motion, to the soundtrack of Kid Rock’s “I’m a Cowboy — Baby.”)

And maybe he’ll keep his office. While Marsico won only 32 percent of the party’s support, Gains won 43 percent to challenger Jay Macejko’s 57 percent.

Marsico’s job appears headed to newcomer Patrick Ginnetti.

And that’s where the inspiring turn of events turns to hopefulness that any newcomer does the right thing.

Managing government operations has become difficult and complicated.

You have to set priorities while balancing work-force needs versus taxpayer needs.

Change came to Mahoning County when it became clear that in balancing clothing allowances versus older plows, and 12 percent manager raises versus fewer paved roads, Marsico and Kenner forgot to keep taxpayers a priority.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.

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