Bar association to conduct hearing involving complaints in judicial race

By Peter H. Milliken


The Mahoning County Bar Association will conduct a last-minute hearing this morning concerning a complaint by Republican Judge Mary DeGenaro of the 7th District Court of Appeals against Atty. Mark A. Hanni, who is her Democratic challenger in Tuesday’s general election.

“This grievance was filed at the last minute in a desperate move by my opponent because she knows she’s losing this election,” Hanni said Friday evening.

Hanni also said the judge’s complaint against him should be heard by the Ohio Supreme Court, not the bar association. That’s because bar association procedure doesn’t allow for subpoenas to compel witness attendance or the evidence- sharing process, known as discovery, he explained.

Hanni’s lawyer, Donald J. McTigue, also said the matter should go to the top court to avoid any appearance of impropriety because the bar association already has declared Judge DeGenaro highly qualified and dismissed Hanni as unqualified in its candidate evaluation.

“I just want a fair and unbiased hearing,” Hanni said.

Judge DeGenaro’s lawyer, Jennifer Brunner, a former Ohio Secretary of State, summarized what she identified as three key points in her client’s complaint, which the association found were supported by probable cause.

The first allegation by Judge DeGenaro is that Hanni’s campaign materials list his Boardman law office address as the place to send campaign contributions, in violation of a prohibition against judicial candidates personally soliciting or receiving campaign contributions.

Hanni said he and other tenants in the building that houses his law office share receptionists, who separate and distribute the mail, and that he never opened the mail.

He added that his campaign committee was housed at his law office address before the campaign rented its Cornersburg headquarters.

Campaign mail was given to a bookkeeper and passed on to the campaign treasurer, he said.

Judge DeGenaro’s second allegation is that Hanni or members of his campaign committee apparently misled attendees at a United Auto Workers’ retirees meeting that the UAW’s political arm had endorsed him, when it actually endorsed her.

Hanni said neither he, nor his campaign workers said he got the UAW endorsement and that he has never misrepresented which labor endorsements he received.

Judge DeGenaro also complained that Hanni’s comments about his religious and political beliefs appear to violate rules prohibiting judicial candidates from making speeches on behalf of a political party or supporting or opposing other candidates for public office.

Hanni said he has always emphasized that, if he’s elected: “All my decisions will be made in accordance to the law.”

Hanni said Judge DeGenaro is hypocritical because her campaign literature identifies her as a founding member of the St. Thomas More Society, a group of Roman Catholic lawyers, who perform free legal work on behalf of Catholic causes, including respect for life, marriage and religious liberty.

Judge DeGenaro referred all inquiries about her complaint to Brunner.

On Thursday, a three-member bipartisan panel of the Ohio Elections Commission found a lack of probable cause to support a separate complaint by Joseph Grenga of Boardman that Judge DeGenaro inaccurately claimed to be recusing herself from Youngstown State University-related cases because she teaches at the university.

Grenga complained that Judge DeGenaro participated in decisions concerning an appeal he filed in connection with a lawsuit he had brought against a YSU employee. The appeals court dismissed Grenga’s appeal as untimely.

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