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Betras can’t be blind to the scandals

Published: Sun, July 21, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

From the time he was chosen to lead the Mahoning County Democratic Party four years ago, David Betras has delivered numerous speeches and made countless public statements that could be summed up thusly: “This is not your grandfather’s party.”

VTR - Dave Betras on Sciortino

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Attorney David Betras, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman, returns to Vindy Talk Radio in response to a Column written by Bertram de Souza entitled "Betras ...

Vindy Talk Radio for July 23, 2013

Attorney David Betras, Democratic Party Chair in Mahoning County, joins Louie b. Free and Bertram de Souza on Vindy Talk Radio. Listen to their conversation ...

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The long-time politico and well-known criminal lawyer contends that Mahoning County politics dominated by Democrats has entered a new era, one in which officeholders are committed, first and foremost, to public service.

In other words, gone are the days when the chairman and other party and elected officials paid homage to special interests, including the Mafia, and when government could be bought for so many pieces of gold.

FBI-led investigation

The conviction several years ago of 70 individuals in a government corruption investigation led by the FBI was the turning point in county politics. With a prosecutor, sheriff, judges, others in and out of government and mobsters carted off to prison, Democrats were forced to come to terms with the corrupt nature of county politics.

Betras keeps insisting that today’s officeholders are nothing like their predecessors and that any untoward activity is the exception rather than the rule.

The Democratic Party chairman has so convinced himself that things have changed for the better, he is unable to face reality.

Thus, his absence in two high-profile cases that are a throwback to the bad old days.

The first is the so-called Oakhill Renaissance Place controversy in which current or former county government officials and a prominent Mahoning Valley businessman faced state criminal charges stemming from the relocation of the Job and Family Services agency from the Cafaro-Co.-owned Garland Plaza to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former South Side Medical Center.

The charges were ultimately dropped but not because the special prosecutors concluded they did not have a strong case.

The charges can be filed again, but Betras has been quick to denigrate the entire investigation and to suggest the state had overreached.

Likewise, his reaction — or lack thereof — to the arrest/unarrest of county Auditor Michael Sciortino on a potential drunken-driving charge has taken on a “see-no-evil” appearance. It is noteworthy that Sciortino was one of the defendants in the Oakhill Renaissance case.

The chairman insists that the intervention of a sheriff’s office commander, Thomas Assion, on behalf of Sciortino was a one-off and does not reflect standard operating procedure under Sheriff Jerry Greene.

Assion, who admitted that he intervened in the arrest because Sciortino is his friend, has been demoted to his previous rank of sergeant. It represents a $19,000 cut in salary.

Assion, who suggested to the arresting officer, Sgt. James Touville, that he not arrest Sciortino for drunken driving and instead cite him for a lane violation, is being investigated by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The commander drove Sciortino home in the auditor’s car, thus saving his friend from what could have been a DUI conviction. Sciortino had failed the initial field-sobriety test.

Officer of the court

The county auditor is a lawyer, and Betras was asked whether, as an officer of the court, Sciortino had a responsibility to reject Assion’s intervention and insist that the arrest be completed.

The Democratic Party chairman dismissed the question as ridiculous.

In Betras’ world, doing a special favor for a friend who also is an elected official does not rise to the level of political misconduct.

That’s the same attitude evident in the Oakhill Renaissance Place case, with public officials going beyond the call of duty for Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., who was president of the Cafaro Co. at the time of the JFS relocation.

Cafaro sought to stop county commissioners from buying the former South Side hospital.

Betras’ cavalier attitude toward Oakhill Renaissance and the Sciortino scandals does not bode well for the party.

If the chairman isn’t willing to come down hard on individuals who aren’t playing by the rules, it won’t be long before the Democratic Party returns to its corrupt roots.


1Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 3 years ago

The local Democrat party gave Lisa Antonini a standing ovation after she made her GUILTY plea.

They do not care about good government, they care about power.

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2TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years ago

Anyone See The News About State Rep Beck In Cincinnati?

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3greevey(23 comments)posted 3 years ago

Where's Bill Murray? Is it Groundhog Day...again? Hey Betram, the only "scandal" with Oakhill is the fleecing of the Mahoning County tax payers who continue to sink ten's of millions into that rat & asbestos infested money pit that you and your drinking buddies thought was such a good idea. Why can't you just admit that you were wrong. Oakhill was a horrendous idea that will continue to drain the county for years to come and your Sunday rants enabled Tablack, Trafficanti, and Ludt to fulfill their personal political agendas. They used you; you were their tool. How pathetic it is that you remain oblivious to the truth.

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4kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years ago

I got a kick out of the first post: "Same old worn out stories, etc."

Of course they're "Same Old". Bertram is talking about "Corruption in the Mahoning Valley" and that's an old story. I'm sure, if one read Vindy stories and columns going back years, these very issues would be discussed. Or maybe not. I remember a day in Youngstown when everyone took for granted that the "Democrat Machine" ran things and everybody benefited from it: the Mills were humming, Unions were Big and, well, the Democrats were the Party of FDR and JFK, right? Who questions them? Might as well question Jesus Christ, right.

Well, the point is- if you give a single group of people too much power - it corrupts them and it makes for bad Government- and that's what we've had for as long as I can remember with The Democrat Machine running things. We live in a Democracy but you wouldn't know it from the Mahoning Valley where you have the same "bad actors" year in and year out. Davey Betras is just the last of an illustrious line stretching back to "Bull Moose" Hanni and "Jimbo" Traficant. Three Peas in a Pod.

What we really need in the valley is a Two Party System- a strong Republican Party counterbalancing the Democrats. The Great Industrialists who built the Youngstown Steel Industry- what was their Political Affiliation- Republican or Democrat?

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5questionreality(734 comments)posted 3 years ago

Bert writes: "If the chairman isn’t willing to come down hard on individuals who aren’t playing by the rules, it won’t be long before the Democratic Party returns to its corrupt roots."

The Vindy staff is aware of who is playing by the rules and who isn't in many respects. But business interests most likely prevent any robust scrutiny.

And so, as Kurt Vonnegut said, "Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?"

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6TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years ago

Its aGood Point Qr. In A Small Market With No Competition, The Need For Real Deep Ongoing Investigative Journalism Disappears. They Simply Don't Have To...Just Full The Paper With AP Stories Yanked From The Wire.

Kurtw Check Out State Rep Beck From Cincinnati And Reconsider What Your Wrote

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7Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 3 years ago

Well, the state did in fact overreach on those charges. Anyone looking at the bill of particulars would tell you there is no way a conviction would have been brought on any of that stuff. Sure, the indictment sounds sexy because it involves a commissioner, an auditor, and the Cafaro Company, but there was no substance to the case. If you ask the average person on the street what in particular anyone did wrong, they wouldn't be able to tell you. Try giving it to a jury and see what they do with it.

As far as bashing Cafaro, you know, the guy doesn't have to keep his money in the Mahoning Valley. A person of his means could just as easily move his company elsewhere and save himself the trouble of getting beat up week in and week out around here.

As of July 21st, 2013, he has not been convicted of anything, and yet Mr. de Souza writes as if he ought to be in handcuffs this very day. Think about that.

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8greevey(23 comments)posted 3 years ago

Hey Flick! Why don't you enlighten us with your vast knowledge. Tell us, how much property does Cafaro currently have an interest in that affects Mahoning County? Other than being a taxpayer who has paid its property taxes year after year and has a few hundred employees on the city's northside that that have paid millions of dollars in city income tax over the years, they don't have a single business agreement with any Mahoning County governmental entity. But then again, I guess you and Betram never let facts get in the way of a story!

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9Silence_Dogood(1675 comments)posted 3 years ago

" it won’t be long before the Democratic Party returns to its corrupt roots."

Tell me again when they LEFT their corrupt roots, I think i missed that day. Or was it a week?

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10jailbirds93(16 comments)posted 3 years ago

I guess it’s better late than never, but at least you are now acknowledging what so many have known for a long time, Betras is as corrupt as the rest of them and he uses his powers as an attorney to intimidate and bully people he wants to go after.

I am a precinct committee person and I want to see someone else step up to replace Betras. If it doesn’t happen soon I will resign. I voted for Betras because I thought he was going to bring some new ideas and people to the party, instead he has proved that he is a puppet for the Cafaro clan and takes orders from Chris Redfern in Columbus. I didn’t vote for that.

I also never expected in my life to be interviewed by the FBI. The only questions they had concerned Betras. The rumor mill has been talking about Betras testifying before a federal grand jury in Cleveland a few months ago. I don’t know what the feds are waiting for but we need to be rid of this (Betras) clear and present danger to the people of Mahoning County.

The man has no morals, no real friends and buys awards to make himself look good.

Is this the best we can do? I hope not.

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11Nonsocialist(710 comments)posted 3 years ago

"...Detroit exemplifies what happens when one political party - and it doesn't matter if it's the Democrats or the Republicans - keeps an iron grip on political power for decade after decade."


You cannot be pro-Union, pro-Democratic-Socialist Party, and also pro-Youngstown. It'd be like being pro-cancer and also pro-health.

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12kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years ago

How would the Mahoning Valley be if we had a strong Republican Presence?

Maybe, not as interesting, but, I'll bet- A Lot More Prosperous. They don't call Republicans the Pro-business Party for nothing.

A question for everybody out there still in the Labor Force? Where does your Livelihood Come From- I mean who signs your paycheck?

I would bet for most of us it comes from a Private Sector Employer- a small Business of some kind and, guess what, most small business people vote Republican.

So, if I want entertainment, I can watch the "Sopranos" or rent the "Godfather". I don't need the real life spectacle in Y-Town to amuse me.

P.S. I see Davey Betras at the Boardman Y sometimes. He's generally upstairs in the Iron Room pretending to work out- but, actually, just looking around to see who notices him. One time he saw me and he smiled and winked, although I never met him in my life- I guess he thought: the guy might be a registered Democrat, so why take a chance!

Another time, he was on one of those "Stair Climber" machines- you know the ones that don't go any where and, I thought, what a wonderful metaphor for the Democrats! Huffing and Puffing and Making a Big Show- but going nowhere!

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13TB(1167 comments)posted 3 years ago

Kurtw, Did You Read About Representative Beck Yet?

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14harleydog(243 comments)posted 3 years ago

Anywhere you see Betras he is talking so loud because he wants everyone to notice him. Funny you hear people around him saying what a loud mouth ass he his. Dave hate to disappoint you but no one really likes you. I have seen it happen at the y, grocery store and food establishments. Bla bla bla... Dave likes to hear himself talk.

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15kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years ago

I read it. It was never my contention that Republicans were "Simon Pure"- incapable of wrong doing- that's obviously not the case.

My point was- and continues to be- that it is inherently unhealthy for the politics of a given area to be dominated by a single organization- whether they call themselves Democrats, Republicans or, for that matter, any other organization. Single Party Control is the villain- corrupts everything and everybody it touches- as we Youngstowner's should be well aware of

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16kurtw(1821 comments)posted 3 years ago

If Davey Betras would just exercise his muscles at the Davis-Y the way he exercises his mouth, he would be as thin and wiry as a Whippet!

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17TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years ago

FLICK: You forgot the biggest and most corrupt of all politicians bribed by the Cafaros-your boy our former Congressman who did the MOST prison time and painted our area in the worst manner for the entire country to sneer at. You remember some idiot even wrote a book defending him, like 3 people read it. Who was that guy oh yeah- TRAFICANT. Why were you so convinced he was innocent? Again you only point out the facts you like to agree with.

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18jojuggie(1723 comments)posted 3 years ago

The Democrats need an underclass. Someone uneducated & someone that relies on someone else for handouts

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19TERRAPINST(321 comments)posted 3 years ago

My bad Flick you did cite the Congressman I hate to say this to you but I was wrong about you. About only this of course

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20wraz(15 comments)posted 2 years, 12 months ago

Does this reporter have an issue with job preparation? It appears when Bert is not feeling like doing his job he returns to his first love whuch is hating the Cafaro family and this special favorite and old worn out Oakhill (non story) I mean will you please write something relevant like Jim Traficant or Pat Ungaro or the building of the Chevrolet Centre and the 711 connector completion target date!!!!! Shut up please!!!!

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21handymandave(578 comments)posted 2 years, 12 months ago

Bertram keep up the good work. Democrats hate to be reminded of the poor choices they've made. Take into consideration the election of Obama undoubtedly the worst president the country has ever seen. He is good for at least one or two scandals a week but then tries to dismiss them as unimportant and distracting. Yes, I imagine his agenda for destroying the good ole USA is getting harder to perform in the midst of all these harmless scandals. Benghazi, IRS, Journalists being wire tapped and investigated illegally. These distractions are keeping the president from what he's been doing the best "spending money we don't have." "Keeping the unemployment at record levels", and making anyone with a brain have a general distrust of Washington. Let's vote this clown out of office by impeachment before he completely destroys the United States with his failed leadership and scandal ridden actions.

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22Not_Surprised(48 comments)posted 2 years, 11 months ago

Betras is too busy writing checks for his attorney friend who moved to Cleveland. It's actually the corrupt names that I haven't heard about in awhile that I'm concerned about.

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