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Contest for mayor certainly is odd

Published: Fri, October 4, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)

On the side

Shutdown: U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, isn’t accepting his salary during the federal government shutdown and is sponsoring legislation to prohibit members of Congress from receiving pay during shutdowns.

But he’s going to get paid anyway as the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution restricts Congress from freezing or cutting its own pay.

House members receive $174,000 annually.

Johnson said he will have his salary during the shutdown donated to charity.

“I’m frustrated with the dig-in-your-heels-at-any-cost-to-America crowd in Washington, and so are the people I represent,” he said.

U.S. Rep. David Joyce of Russell, R-14th, is donating his salary during the shutdown to two charities: the Cleveland Food Bank and a foundation that assists and treats military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I’ve spent the past days meeting with Democrats and Republicans alike who agree that partisan fights are not worth a shutdown,” he said.

While the Youngstown mayoral Democratic primary wasn’t that compelling, the general election race is likely the most unusual I’ve covered.

As in the primary, Democrat John McNally IV’s indictment, dismissed two years ago, on political corruption charges has been an issue.

But it’s taken a back seat to other events.

DeMaine Kitchen — an independent and considered a leading candidate for mayor along with McNally — first had to address delinquent taxes he owed to the city, Mahoning County and the state as well as a foreclosure and other financial problems.

Then county Democratic Chairman David Betras removed three black members of the party’s executive committee, including two sitting Youngstown City Council members and a former one, because they support Kitchen.

That resulted in racist accusations by some Youngstown-area black leaders against Betras. Betras calls the claims offensive and wrong, and that the removal had to do with party disloyalty and not race.

Then allegations of sexual harassment by a city council employee against Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary and a former 2nd Ward councilman, came to light a few days ago — just before the start of early voting and five weeks before the Nov. 5 election.

Kitchen has strongly denied the claims of Lyndsey Hughes, the city’s downtown director of events, special projects and marketing, that he sexually harassed her on and off since January 2011.

Kitchen also questions the timing of the allegations, calling them “politically motivated” because Hughes supports McNally.

As for waiting until now to come forward, Emily Gilbert, one of Hughes’ three attorneys, said the harassment stopped for a while, then started and stopped, and then continued this past June.

The law department is hiring an investigator to review this case that could end up becoming a lawsuit.

Of concern is that Hughes went to Charles Sammarone, then city council president and now mayor, in January 2011 about the alleged sexual harassment.

Sammarone’s response, according to Hughes’ attorneys, was: “What do you expect? You are a pretty, young girl.”

Rather than conduct an investigation, Sammarone met with Hughes and Jamael Tito Brown, then the 3rd Ward councilman, to discuss the issue.

Kitchen came into the meeting after it started and in response to Hughes asking why he was there, Sammarone said, “Because this ... needs to stop,” according to her attorneys.

It did for a while, but resumed, then stopped and started again this past June, her attorneys contend. They also claim that Hughes’ five-day suspension in July was in “retaliation” for her complaints about Kitchen.

Kitchen said that isn’t true, and that’s been supported by members of council.

How this impacts the mayoral race remains to be seen, but it can’t possibly help Kitchen’s campaign.

Finally, there is John M. Crea, an independent mayoral candidate, who has been arrested twice since Aug. 30, refused to undergo a mental health evaluation, is in the county jail and appears to be in serious need of help that he apparently isn’t interested in receiving.

He’s already been convicted of aggravated menacing and disorderly conduct and is on probation, and now faces three counts of aggravated menacing.

This certainly isn’t just another Mahoning Valley political race.

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