By David Skolnick
Ten candidates — including the city’s magistrate, deputy law director and senior prosecutor — applied to replace Youngstown Municipal Court Judge Robert A. Douglas Jr., who’s retiring Aug. 1.
Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, will appoint a new judge based on the recommendations of the Mahoning County Republican Party, which is putting together a screening committee to interview the candidates.
Of the 10 applicants who applied to the county GOP by the late Thursday deadline, eight are registered Democrats, according to information obtained by The Vindicator from boards of elections in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Only Plato J. Kalfas, who received 11 percent of the vote in his failed 2011 campaign for Youngstown council’s 5th Ward seat, is a registered Republican.
City Senior Prosecutor Bassil S. Ally is the only applicant with no political party affiliation.
Three of the applicants don’t live in Youngstown. State law requires only that an appointed municipal court judge to be “a qualified elector and a resident of the territory of the court” when appointed.
The three who don’t live in Youngstown seeking the job are: Sam G. Amendolara of Canfield, a county juvenile court magistrate; Lori L. Shells of Austintown, an assistant county prosecutor assigned to the Children’s Services Board; and Martin S. Hume of Liberty, an assistant county prosecutor assigned to county court in Boardman.
If one of those three are selected, they’d have to move to Youngstown before becoming a municipal court judge.
The other applicants are:
Anthony Sertick Jr., the court’s magistrate for the past 11 years and a former assistant county prosecutor.
Anthony Donofrio, the city’s deputy law director and former deputy general counsel for B.J. Alan Co.
Jeff Limbian, a former city prosecutor and law director, and assistant county prosecutor.
Terry A. Grenga, an attorney and former assistant county prosecutor.
John H. Marsh Jr., fired in April as a senior assistant city law director during an overhaul of the law department.
City officials had said the decision to get rid of Marsh had nothing to do with an investigation into a controversial text message that led to the firing of Jay Macejko as prosecutor and Bret Hartup as a senior assistant law director.
The text message was included in investigative documents in a federal discrimination lawsuit filed against the city by Ally.
The two parties settled the religious and ethnic discrimination lawsuit in November 2011 with Ally receiving a $110,000 lump-sum payment from the city’s insurance company, and a $4,000 annual pay increase
Judge Douglas will retire Aug. 1 from his municipal court seat. His term doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2013.
State law permits the governor to fill judicial vacancies.
Kasich asked the county Republican Party to screen the candidates and provide him with three finalists.
The committee should be in place shortly with interviews expected to start the week of June 11, said Mark Munroe, Mahoning County Republican chairman.
The party’s recommendation will be to Kasich by the end of the month.
“Obviously, there’s a great deal of interest in the judgeship,” Munroe said.
“There are many well-qualified candidates.”
Because there aren’t many Republican lawyers living in Youngstown, a strong Democratic city, the person appointed could be a Democrat.
County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras as well as state Reps. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, and Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, do not want Kasich to fill the vacancy to make it easier for consolidation of the lower courts in the county.
But the Ohio Constitution requires Kasich to appoint someone unless the state Legislature abolishes the seat, Rob Nichols, the governor’s spokesman, has said.
“What [Hagan and Gerberry] are asking the governor to do is violate Ohio law,” Munroe said.
“They failed as legislators to address this issue through the legislative process.”