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Has private jitney service returned?



Published: Sun, June 23, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


If a publicly unidentified high-ranking officer in the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department (we know who you are!) is looking for a “I’m not the first one to do it” defense for giving county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino a ride home after he was cited for failing to drive within marked lanes, he should get a copy of The Vindicator of July 12, 1995.

In it he’ll find a story headlined, “Police chief: Allegations are just politics.”

Here’s the lead paragraph of the article with a Poland dateline:

“Township Police Chief Carl Massullo says charges by trustee candidate Leonard Coloutes that he neglected his duty by being driven home from a tavern by one of his officers is a case of election-year politics.”

Massullo’s rescue by Sgt. Gary Abed, who was on duty, occurred April 14 while the chief was off duty.

The chief denied he was drunk and said Abed gave him a ride to his Boardman home “because I became ill.”

But Coloutes contended that Massullo was drinking at The Office tavern on U.S. Route 224, and that Sgt. Abed used his cruiser as a private jitney.

Incidentally, the story gave rise to a column that this writer headlined, “Our slogan: To protect and to chauffeur.”

The opening paragraph read as follows:

“Here’s a sure-fire way for Poland Township to gain national notoriety. It should adopt as its slogan, “Poland Township, the community that cares. You do the drinking, we do the driving.”

Just replace “Poland Township” with the unnamed high-ranking official (We know who you are!) in the sheriff’s department, and there’s the defense for his running interference for county Auditor Sciortino.

WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT?

As reported by The Vindicator, Sgt. James Touville had stopped Sciortino, who was driving a black Buick, on U.S. Route 224 east of Raccoon Road.

The stop came after an employee of Wendy’s on Route 224 called 911 to report that a man had fallen asleep in a car outside the restaurant. The employee gave a license number of a black Buick to dispatchers.

Records show it was the car Sciortino was driving.

It is not clear whether Sgt. Touville gave a field sobriety test to the county auditor, nor is there any indication that a Breathalyzer test was administered.

However, the traffic stop and the citation for failing to drive within marked lanes prompted the high-ranking member of the sheriff’s department to show up and give the county auditor a ride home.

As The Vindicator reported June 9: “Yet to be explained is why someone would need a ride home after a misdemeanor lane violation.”

GREENE MAKES RIGHT MOVE

To his credit, Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene, who has been on the job since Jan. 1, concluded the Sciortino case demanded a full investigation.

And to make sure there can be no claims of a cover-up, Greene contacted the Buckeye Sheriff’s Association, which recommended the Summit County Sheriff’s Department to conduct the probe.

Deputies have been gathering the facts and interviewing everyone involved in the Sciortino case.

The auditor already has paid a $50 fine and $80 in court costs in Mahoning County Area Court in Canfield.

He has not commented publicly about that night. The question he must answer is this: Is it right for a public official to get special treatment from law enforcement?

That was the point Coloutes was driving home in 1995 when he asked the Poland Township trustees why they did not fire then police Chief Massullo.

In the column about the Poland Township jitney service, this writer challenged the police chief’s contention that Coloutes’ allegations do not deserve a response.

“But they do, because even though Massullo insists that he was off duty, he still used his position to get a police officer on duty to drive him home — out of the township limits,” this writer argued

It was wrong for a public official to get special treatment 18 years ago, and it’s wrong for an officeholder to get special treatment the night of May 26.

It is noteworthy that Sciortino is one of several county officials who faced state criminal charges in the so-called Oakhill Renaissance Place scandal. The charges were dismissed, but the gist of the state case is that an influential businessman received special treatment from county officials.


Comments

1BigJim2234(57 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

It is wrong in both cases. Period.

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21970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

1. I don't remember the situation from 1995, and the column is unclear as to whether the police chief was driving or not.

If he got pulled over, and then got a ride instead of charges for a traffic violation, then that does seem like special treatment.

However, if he had enough sense to call someone BEFORE he even started driving home, it is MUCH better than driving and hurting someone.

Many cops will tell you in situation involving stranger that they have either given rides home or let person pulled over call someone to pick them up rather than write them up for DUI.

But that is a MUCH different than getting someone from sheriff office who was not on the scene to come and get you an give you a ride home after you have been caught driving.

The stories I have heard involve people who were not obviously drunk and are respectfu and were close to the limit. It helps too if the driver was not being stupid, i.e. falling asleep behind the wheel in a parking lot.

2. JOHN YOUNG: You are comparing apples and oranges. The reporter in your scenario went through the court system AFTER being CHARGED with a DUI.

It was very common for a DUI to be reduced to reckless operation in years gone past, and it was common for everyone, not just a reporter.

Sciortino got a ride home after driving and never had to go through court system to fight a DUI.

This column does not slam Sciortino for driving drunk, it slams him for what looks like circumventing the system to avoid being charged.

3. Good job by Sheriff Greene for investigating this. I apparently am one of the few people who do NOT know who gave Sciortino a ride home that night.

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3TERRAPINST(314 comments)posted 1 year, 6 months ago

Betram Desouza speaking about any actions related to DUI's is like John Wayne Gacey discussing daycare regulations. Some things just scream hypocrisy and this is one of them. Don't like Sciortino and this sounds fishy, but Bert should really not be representing the paper with this one. He has two charges for DUI and obviously has very little personal commitment to public safety related to this issue. One okay, two ...... Probably should have stayed away from this one Berty.

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4walter_sobchak(1979 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

This has to be embarassing for the Vindicator which had interesting political opinion writers. Every week, half of Bart's column are direct reprints or quotes of previous columns or other news reports. This week's column could have been written in about two paragraphs to make this simpleton's point. It's time that the newspaper tell deSalsa to hop the train with the rest of the old-timers and move down the line. Well, maybe I will give him one more chance and check out his latest entry on his Stirfry blog that they note on the top of his column. Hey, it's a post about Bishop Murry and it's 3 months old!!!!! I thought blogs were for quick and timely remarks with no regard for paper column space? Oh well, I guess I will give him one more chance and read his column on Sunday, June 30 which should probably be a redux about YSU and Dr. Anderson.

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5candystriper(575 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

300k driving to the Electric Daisy Carnival last weekend...open beer cans in the cars...drunks wearing neon bikini's with eskimo boots puking out the car window...sober motorists complaining...Las Vegas Metro won't stop any visitor who brings in $200 million in one weekend....Y-town has it easy.

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6kurtw(938 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

None of the above makes sense, especially comment No: One. Berts record doesn't matter- I don't care how many DUI's in his past. The only thing that matters is a rational examination of the present case- the Sciortino DUI incident and the fact that he circumvented the system because he belongs to the Davey Betras Gang- i.e. the Democrats (sic) of Mahoning County.

Besides, a reporter is a private citizen- like the rest of his- what he does may matter to his employer, his spouse, etc. It doesn't concern the rest of us and- he did go through the criminal justice system: he didn't get a ride home from the police.

Sciortino, and the Mahoning County Sheriffs Department- work for the taxpayers- me, and people like me- so when they screw up- it concerns me and other taxpayers. Big difference there.

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