Decision on Macejko by next week, mayor says
By David Skolnick
Mayor Charles Sammarone said he plans to decide by next Wednesday whether to take any disciplinary action against city Prosecutor Jay Macejko and others related to controversial text messages from a religious-discrimination lawsuit settled by the city.
When asked if Macejko could be fired, Sammarone said, “Nothing is off the table.”
Sammarone met Wednesday with city Law Director Anthony Farris to discuss a three-member panel’s investigation into the lawsuit’s documents, primarily text messages between Macejko and Bret Hartup, an assistant law director.
“They’re getting all the information, talking to the people involved, get the facts and get it done,” Sammarone said.
Regarding the tight deadline, Sammarone said, “I want to get it over with. People around here have a tendency to not bring things to an end. Do an investigation, get information, evaluate it and make a decision.”
The mayor said the final decision rests with him.
If the report recommends “discipline or termination or nothing, I’ll make a decision,” he said.
Macejko, Farris and all assistant prosecutors and law directors serve at the pleasure of the mayor.
The three-member panel — Farris, police Lt. Brian Butler of internal affairs, and Jonathan Huff, executive director of the city’s Human Relations Commission — will focus on an April 7, 2009, text that may have been sent by or to Macejko or Hartup about President Barack Obama’s stimulus package.
The text read: “I just received my Obama stimulus package. It was 3 pieces of chicken, a pack of kool-aid and a dime bag. Did u get yours?”
That message was on Hartup’s cellphone and among the texts he turned over to the federal judge overseeing the settled lawsuit filed against the city by Bassil Ally, a Muslim of Middle Eastern descent, who is an assistant city prosecutor.
U.S. District Court Judge Christopher A. Boyko ruled Tuesday that Atty. Scott Cochran wasn’t in contempt of court for giving those text messages to The Vindicator.
The judge also signed an order unsealing the records, but as of late Wednesday, those records were still unavailable online.
Cochran represents the Islamic Society of Greater Youngs-town, which sought public release of sealed documents after the case was settled.
Macejko, city prosecutor since January 2006, declined Wednesday to comment to the newspaper because of the investigation, except to say, “You have my comments from before. I’ve made my position very clear.”
Macejko has strongly denied writing or seeing the Obama text until Feb. 13 of this year, and suggested it might be spam.
Macejko acknowledged he wrote insulting text messages to Hartup about Ally, but said they were “absolutely not” racial or ethnic slurs, and were made in “a moment of frustration” concerning an issue with Ally.
The Obama text-message issue was one of the key criticisms used against Macejko in his close-but-failed Democratic primary race for Mahoning County prosecutor against incumbent Paul J. Gains.
Cochran supported Gains.
Hartup hasn’t commented on the text messages to the media.