When Mahoning County Engi- neer Patrick Ginnetti won election in 2012 by virtue of being unopposed, we offered this observation:
“The credibility of the engineer’s office is tied to how the public views the person at the top in terms of integrity.”
It was prompted by news reports just before the Democratic primary about a $27,687 lien on Ginnetti’s home by the Internal Revenue Service. The Democratic nominee and subsequent general election winner pledged that the IRS debt, along with unknown interest and penalty, would be paid off in three to five years.
“We would hope Ginnetti finds a way to expedite the payment to the federal government,” we wrote in an editorial, which noted that the new county engineer and the new sheriff, Jerry Greene, represented a change in the way government operates.
And while Greene has grabbed headlines because of the initiatives he has launched, such as fully opening the county jail, Ginnetti was in the news Saturday because of a hiring decision.
The county engineer has given Paul A. Bindas, 47, of Beech Court, Canfield, a $33,301-a-year job as a laborer. He began work on April 17.
A year earlier, Bindas pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with fourth-degree felony theft from the Ohio Turnpike Commission between Jan. 1, 2010, and Nov. 4, 2011. He had been working as a toll collector.
Bindas was sentenced by common pleas Judge Lou A. D’Apolito to six months’ probation supervised by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority. The judge also ordered $35,949 withheld from Bindas’ state retirement account and sent to the turnpike as restitution.
The convicted felon’s probation officer discharged him from supervision because he had “complied with the rules and regulations and is no longer in need of supervision.”
So, why make a big deal about his being hired as a laborer in the engineer’s department?
Because it smacks of the bad old days of Mahoning County politics when getting on the public payroll was the result of who you knew, rather than what you knew.
“He’s paid the price. It was time to go back to work,” Ginnetti said in reference to Bindas’ hiring.
However, we don’t believe it’s as simple as that.
Bindas had a government agency job and he played fast and loose with it.
Consider also that the full-time toll-taker position paid $50,772 a year. The median income of a family of four in Youngstown is $24,000.
No one who has violated the trust that comes with public service should have another grab at the brass ring.
There are too many law-abiding residents of Mahoning County who through no fault of their own have had a difficult time finding work. The national economic recession that hit in late 2008 is to blame.
There are too many young people who have been discouraged after not being able to land a job in the private or public sectors and have, therefore, chosen to leave the region. The population of the tri-county area continues to decline — and get older.
No one is suggesting that Bindas does not deserve to work, but giving him another public position is the same as rewarding him for stealing from his previous employer, the Ohio Turnpike Commission.
Engineer Ginnetti may have thought he was doing something honorable by giving a convicted felon a second chance, but all he has done is resurrect his own trouble with the law. He will be expected to keep his pledge to pay off his debt to the IRS in the next several years — if not sooner.