Former Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes, a candidate for Mahoning County sheriff, is questioning whether an opponent violated a federal law that would make him ineligible to run in Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
But Jerry Greene, the opponent in question, says Hughes is wrong about that and other issues.
“It’s a political ploy and an act of desperation,” Greene said. “It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.”
At a Wednesday press conference at his campaign office in Austintown, Hughes accused Greene of violating the federal Hatch Act.
The law prohibits civil servants paid from — or supervising the spending of — federal funds from running for office.
Greene said he’s in compliance because he’s never supervised activities funded by federal money.
Also, he resigned in October as a sheriff’s department captain, a civil-service job, and became director of jail services, a nonlaw- enforcement job with the department, before campaigning.
But Hughes contends Greene campaigned about two years before he officially declared himself a candidate.
Hughes said Greene sent Christmas cards to Democratic precinct committee members for two years while he was a captain.
Greene said that’s true.
“I sent cards to precinct committee members and elected officials to get people to know me, but I never told anyone I was running for sheriff, because I wasn’t at the time,” he said.
Hughes added that county Democratic Chairman David Betras was backing Greene before the party’s endorsement.
Greene and Betras strongly denied that.
“A desperate candidate has decided to make unfounded allegations against me and by extension the [party’s] endorsement process, because the candidate’s campaign has failed to generate support among the voters,” Betras said. “Mr. Hughes’ allegations are totally false.”
To be fair to the three Democratic candidates for sheriff, the county party should conduct a debate between now and Tuesday’s election, Hughes said.
Betras said the party’s central committee members voted to support Greene, and there’s no reason for the party to put on a debate.
Hughes said Betras encouraged him and Poland Township Chief Brian Goodin, another Democratic sheriff candidate, to get out of the race before the Jan. 7 party endorsement vote.
“He advised me not to run,” Hughes said of Betras. “One reason, he said, was Jerry Greene was already campaigning.”
Betras said that’s false.
Also, Hughes said Betras told Struthers Law Director Dominic Leone that it wouldn’t be a good political move to serve as the former Youngstown police chief’s campaign treasurer.
Goodin and Leone said Hughes’ statements aren’t accurate.
Goodin said Betras asked him to withdraw if he didn’t receive the party’s endorsement. Goodin opted not to seek the endorsement and remained a candidate.
Leone said he asked Betras and others for advice and they told him the responsibilities of his new job as Struthers law director would keep him busy and being Hughes’ campaign treasurer might be too much.
Leone said that was good advice.
Betras confirmed Goodin’s and Leone’s versions of their discussions.
Hughes said Betras asked others not to be involved in his campaign but denied to disclose their names. Betras said he was neutral before the party’s Jan. 7 endorsement and didn’t discourage anyone to work for any of the three sheriff candidates.