Rumors about Judge Belinky have come true

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Big Daddy: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan is going to be a father.

Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and his wife Andrea, who he married in April 2013, are expecting a boy in June.

His wife, an elementary school teacher, has two children from a previous marriage. Her children live with the couple.

The couple has picked out the expected baby’s name, Brady Zetts, according to Roll Call. Zetts is Andrea’s maiden name.

I’m guessing Brady is in honor of Ryan’s favorite former quarterback of his beloved, yet lousy, Cleveland Browns.

Primary ballot: The Mahoning County Board of Elections will meet at 8 a.m. Tuesday to certify candidates and issues to the May 6 primary ballot. It will also disqualify candidates or issues without enough valid signatures on nominating petitions to get on the ballot.

Rumors about criminal corruption investigations of Mahoning Valley officeholders are commonplace.

I first heard about Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky being investigated more than two years ago.

Perhaps it was true, perhaps it wasn’t.

But after the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation obtained two warrants, there’s no doubt Judge Belinky, a Democrat, is being investigated, and it’s not just another rumor.

He hasn’t been charged with any crimes, but the warrants state evidence was collected last Friday at his court office and Boardman home related to the judge engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, bribery, money laundering, theft and theft in office.

The warrants allowed investigators to collect “bank records, campaign finance reports, lists of donors, ledgers, and any documentation, computers, electronic storage devices, electronic media” from his probate court office and his Boardman home.

Judge Belinky’s financial woes have been well documented.

He’s loaned $80,125 to his campaign fund, which doesn’t have a penny in it as of Dec. 31.

The IRS placed a lien on his home in 2011 for owing $32,000 in unpaid federal income taxes.

Judge Belinky, who makes $105,000 annually, had his paycheck garnished last year because of a $20,000 loan from 2008 with more than $7,000 in interest.

When someone in a position of power like a judge experiences monetary problems, some decide the best option is to commit crimes for financial gains. We’ve seen it many times before in this area.

I’m not convicting Judge Belinky, but the search warrant documents are pretty damning.

Among the interesting tidbits from the warrants is the BCI took far more overtly political reports and documents — campaign records, campaign finance reports, campaign checks, information about campaign yard signs and events, and copies of his 2014 re-election filing petition — from his court office than from his house.

The only political items taken from his house are a CD labeled “Judge Belinky spots,” and a campaign pencil that looks like a gavel found in a cup in his kitchen. If nothing else, the pencil would make a good prop if this matter ends up in court.

In a statement, Judge Belinky wrote that he has “cooperated with law enforcement in this investigation.” If so, why did BCI need to get search warrants?

The timing of this couldn’t be worse for Judge Belinky, who is facing a tough Democratic primary from two challengers. Also, the county Democratic Party is meeting next week to endorse candidates for the May primary.

Judge Belinky was never the darling of the party’s central and executive committees, having failed twice to get elected chairman, and receiving little support during failed runs for county recorder and county commissioner.

After losing the party chairman race in 2002 to Lisa Antonini, now a convicted felon, Belinky said of those who voted against them, “I offered my help, and they refused it. I won’t lose any sleep over it. It’s their loss. I won’t give them my help, resources or energy again.”

But he returned four years later to gain some redemption, easily winning the post of party secretary despite opposition from some Democratic leaders.

He was appointed to the court in 2007 by then-Gov. Ted Strickland. He won a Democratic primary and the general election against county Court Judge Scott Hunter, a Republican, a year later.

The county Democratic Party didn’t endorse candidates that year and several Democrats campaigned in support of Judge Hunter.

Even without this investigation, it was going to be tough for Judge Belinky to get the party’s endorsement.

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