Mahoning leaders are correct to keep key agencies separate

One year ago, we posed the following question in the midst of a reverse-discrimination lawsuit filed by current and former employees of Mahoning County Job and Family Services: Is there a problem with the way the agency is being managed?

What triggered the question was a statement made by the JFS director, Robert E. Bush Jr., during a staff meeting called to address the racial tensions in the office. A copy of the written statement was sent to The Vindicator, and the tone suggested to us that Bush will not sit idly by while the agency’s dirty laundry is aired.


Thus, imagine our surprise when the three county commissioners unanimously declared their intent to designate the JFS as the county’s public child welfare agency. The upshot of the decision would have been the demise of the county Children Services Board.

But earlier this month, commissioners Carol Rimedio-Righetti, Anthony Traficanti and David Ditzler changed their minds and agreed to a request from CSB to remain independent. It was the right move.

The board has hired Atty. Randall B. Muth as its executive director. The Wayne County Children Services director will replace Denise Stewart.

Rimedio-Righetti, Traficanti and Ditzler had high praise for the Mahoning County CSB and its interim director, Dave Arnold.

“We know that you’re doing a great job,” Rimedio-Righetti told Arnold and Calvin Jones, board vice chairman, during a meeting.

Contrast that show of support to what is going on with Bush at Job and Family Services.

His $111,738-a-year salary is being garnished to pay a debt of $70,758 that stems from unpaid rent, utilities and common-area maintenance charges for a retail beauty products supply business he operated in the McGuffey Mall between 1987 and 1991. The mall is owned by the Cafaro Co. and once housed the JFS agency before it was moved to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place, formerly Southside Medical Center.

So, how did Bush react to a Vindicator reporter when asked about the debt?

“I knew it was coming. It was a debt I should have addressed over the years, and I didn’t follow through. Now, all those chickens are coming home to roost.”


Perhaps he did not mean to come across in such a cavalier way, but given his reaction last year to the reverse-discrimination lawsuit, one wonders about Bush’s judgment.

That should concern the county commissioners, given that morale in the office has not improved, and racial tensions still exist.

It should be noted that we publicly criticized Bush’s hiring in January 2011 as JFS executive director, saying it smacked of pension- padding.

We noted that the former assistant county prosecutor had no discernible qualification for the job.

Of the three commissioners who voted to give him the job over 44 other applicants, several of whom had JFS or related experience, only one remains on the board, Traficanti.

Perhaps it’s time for Traficanti and his colleagues today, Rimedio-Righetti and Ditzler, to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the agency since Bush has been the executive director and to determine whether his performance has matched that of his predecessor or JFS executive directors in other counties.

The issue of his nonpayment of a long- standing debt cannot be dismissed as simply an oversight.

As we said previously, it speaks to his judgment.

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