There’s no compelling reason for U.S. District Court Judge Christopher A. Boyko to maintain the seal on evidence submitted in a religious and race discrimination lawsuit, other than it was agreed to by the parties.
The suit, filed by Assistant Youngstown City Prosecutor Bassil Ally against his boss, city Prosecutor Jay Macejko, and the city of Youngstown, was settled last fall — just before trial was to begin. The sealing of documents and audiotapes relating to the case was part of the settlement that resulted in Ally’s receiving a $110,000 lump sum payment and an annual pay raise of $4,000. His salary is now $65,621.
Macejko wrote a letter of apology to his employee.
Given that the case is over, the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown has filed a motion with Judge Boyko to have the seal removed. It can be, if the parties to the settlement agree.
Although the Islamic Society is seeking the release, it would seem that Ally would have no objections to the documents and audiotapes being made public. Thus, it’s up to the administration of Mayor Charles Sammarone.
Transparency in city government has been the hallmark of Sammarone’s five-month tenure, and we have every reason to believe he will come down on the side of openness. Of course, the mayor will follow the advice of his law director, Anthony Farris, who said in an interview with The Vindicator, “I don’t think we have any great secrets.”
Thus, there should be no hesitation on the part of the city to support the Islamic Society’s motion submitted by Atty. Scott R. Cochran to make the evidence public.
“Records filed in a judicial proceeding are presumptively public, and may not be sealed unless there is a compelling need to do so,” Cochran argued. He noted that because the lawsuit was settled, there will not be a trial. Thus, fair trial rights of the defendants are not an issue.
In his lawsuit, Ally said he had been harassed because of his Muslim faith and Middle Eastern descent and that Macejko threatened his job because he took a late lunch break at 1:30 p.m. each Friday to attend a mosque service.
The suit said Ally was subjected to derogatory comments regarding his religion and national origin by a co-worker and another city employee.
Ally said he told his supervisors when he was hired that he would need an accommodation to his work schedule to attend Friday mosque services, the suit said.
The Islamic Society believes that making the evidence public will help promote tolerance for the Muslim religion.
Macejko, who is challenging Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains in the March 6 Democratic primary, said it was up to the law director and others to decide.
But, his opinion does matter, which is why we would urge him to come out in favor of unsealing the documents and audiotapes.
The public has a right to know why the city settled with Ally. Even though the $110,000 lump sum payment was made by the city’s insurance company, does anyone doubt that it will affect future premiums?
As for the pay raise, would Ally have received that amount had he not been forced to seek legal redress against religious and racial discrimination in the prosecutor’s office?