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Public officials see no evil



Published: Sun, February 16, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


First, some comic relief — from the political tension that has gripped the Mahoning Valley for a week:

Did you hear the one about the probate court judge who is the target of a criminal investigation? He says it’s all a ruse; that he’s actually working with state and federal investigators to blow the lid off government corruption.

As for state and federal law enforcement agents and sheriff’s deputies swooping down on his office in the courthouse and his home? That’s for public consumption, designed to make it all look real.

Here’s another knee slapper.

Did you hear the one about the lawyer who’s seeking a seat on the court of appeals? He says the $161,000 he owes the Internal Revenue Service in back taxes is not an ethical problem; it’s a cash-flow problem.

But wait. Here’s another doozie from him: Having a tax problem will make him a better judge because he will be able to be simpatico with defendants.

Really.

(In that case, wouldn’t a lawyer who has committed murder be the ideal candidate for a judgeship?)

The jokesters

Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the past week or so, you would know that the first “joke” comes from Mahoning County Probate Judge Mark Belinky, who is seeking re-election to a second six-year term this year.

Belinky is the target of a wide-ranging probe by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

BCI agents, with the assistance of the FBI and sheriff’s deputies, carted off boxes of documents, computers and other material in their search for evidence to support possible bribery, money laundering and theft charges.

While the search warrant has been made public, the affidavit submitted by BCI Special Agent Supervisor James Ciotti remains sealed.

Why? Agent Ciotti requested the seal on the following ground: “The affidavit contains information which could compromise an ongoing investigation and which could identify uncharged suspects.”

The key words: Uncharged suspects.

Who are they? Let the speculation begin.

The second “joke” comes from Atty. David Engler, who at one time in the not too distant past was viewed as the antithesis of the corrupt public officials who over the years had brought shame to this region.

Engler was involved in the Mahoning Democrats for Change movement that ousted long-time Democratic Party Chairman Don L. Hanni Jr. and was a breath of fresh air when he served as county commissioner.

Unfortunately, that David Engler has given way to a self-serving, arrogant political hack who has joined forces with Mark Hanni, son of the late party chairman.

Engler is seeking the 7th District Court of Appeals seat being vacated by Judge Joseph J. Vukovich III, while Hanni is challenging appeals court Judge Cheryl Waite.

Over the past week, residents of Mahoning County have been virulent in their criticism of Belinky and Engler, who received a public reprimand from the Ohio Supreme Court several years ago because he had a consensual sexual relationship with a female client.

What is distressing is the silence emanating from the political class; it’s deafening.

GOP chairman

It should come as no surprise that the Republican Party chairman, Mark Munroe, is AWOL. He has proved to be politically inept. (See last week’s column).

It is also no great revelation that Democratic Party Chairman David Betras has chosen not to go after Belinky and Engler with guns blazing for their obvious betrayal of the legal profession. Betras is walking a fine line. He does not want to influence the endorsement process of the party and isn’t keen on taking on a Democratic officeholder, Judge Belinky.

But the chairman knows that all the negative publicity surrounding the two Democrats isn’t good for the party. It continues to feed the perception that corruption is in the region’s political DNA.

So, aren’t there any other officeholders, Republicans or Democrats, who share the public’s disgust over Belinky and Engler?

Apparently not — if the deafening silence is an indication.

Such silence is not golden. It simply confirms the public’s belief that government is a see-no-evil fraternity.


Comments

1formerdemliberal(182 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Implying in the headline that local politicians are monkeys is an insult to monkeys.

Real monkeys like bananas. Local political monkeys like cash (preferably in small unmarked bills).

Totally agree that Mark Munroe is beyond inept in failing to take advantage of the political goldmine area Democrats have presented to the Republican Party over the last few years. He and other Republican leaders in the area have utterly failed to provide any coherent alternative message to local voters as to why promoting responsible private-sector economic development, particularly in the gas/oil industry, and reducing local tax rates to attract more industry by attempting to improve government productivity with fewer resources is in the best interests of the majority of middle-class taxpayers who foot the majority of the bill for their government "services".

Long-time county voters may have given up hope that incumbent office holders can be beaten at the polls, but they still have the voting power to close the purse strings of county government officials. Give yourselves a LEGAL tax break by voting down the county sales tax renewal in May and beyond, instead of feeding the illegal tax breaks some local politicians have apparently given themselves in recent years.

With the influx of outside employees entering our community associated with opportunities in the energy industry comes different philosophies for the future than the steel mill mentality that has dominated this area since the early 1900s. As the economic culture of this area changes, so will expectations of how efficiently government services are provided to support both employers and their employees. Unfortunately, that political "old-time religion" currently expoused by BOTH local political parties in the county unfortunately remains stuck in the corrupted mud of the past.

Be it Democrat, Republican, or Independent, one thing I believe many valley residents can agree upon is that the time has finally come for a change in how our government services and judicial systems are managed and financially operated. Getting our political house in order would be a great legacy to hand to our children and grandchildren that look to us for a better future.

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2Knightcap(699 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

The democrats around here remind me of Sgt. Schultz in Hogan's Heroes. Whenever he saw or heard of sabotage and espionage plans in Stalag 13 he would say "I see NOTHING, I know NOTHING". He would have been a good officer in the democrat party here.

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3UticaShale(854 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

I'm glad I just woke up and missed all the regurtitated hurling by all of the above including Desouza.

The Vindy is a fraction of what it once was to the community, yes that is right, a small percentage. It no longer has been the part of our community that keeps the evil in our "hoods" from rising and infiltrating leadership.
Desouza, Skolnick and the rest of the ink sellers are to LAZY to really make the difference this town needs. The Vindy lost their identity and instead of the ink flying out from the Vindy drone slaying evil where it is conceived in the smaller local governments, they get a pass from the buyer of barrels of ink.
Vindy wake up do more business, get off your butts and write about the evil that germinates from the precincts. We get all this news you recycle from twitter, blogs and the Business Journal. Give us something from the gound up.

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4author50(1121 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Did Bertram and Betras miss each other at V2 for lunch on Wednesday this past week to swap information?

Betras can't say ANYTHING bad about fellow lawyers and judges of both parties because he is a lawyer. It's a club within a club within a club in Mahoning County. Doubt me? Call up former federal prosecutor Katzman for verification.

Belinky's defense worked for Jim Traficant and works in some movies and novels - hey you never know when it comes to Mark Belinky.

The 7th District Court of Appeals has had more decisions over turned by the State Supreme Court than any other state appeals court. I hardly think David Engler's tax problems will impact the court's reputation around the state.

Since the great depression two started in 2008, many people of all races, color, creed, sexual orientation, and all that jazz have run into financial difficulties. Once your in it, it is very hard to climb out of it. Looks terrible for Belinky because it appears he was using his office to make more money to pay off his debt. Looks a little brighter for Engler, because whether he wins or loses, the IRS is going to get their dough.

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5sue(171 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

When was the last time the Vindicator did any investigative reporting?

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6gunr(49 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

Hey, author50: Rather than mere rhetoric, please provide your source of information for your statement:

'The 7th District Court of Appeals has had more decisions over turned by the State Supreme Court than any other state appeals court.'

Statements supported by references become credible.

Jus' sayin'

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7Joe6pack(52 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

"Agent Ciotti requested the seal on the following ground: “The affidavit contains information which could compromise an ongoing investigation and which could identify uncharged suspects. The key words: Uncharged suspects.

Who are they? Let the speculation begin.”

No speculation needed, here they are on a silver platter:

The Oakhill gang, all of them. (Not about Oakhill charges)

At the Board of Elections, the board members, including Betras and Munroe, and most of the staff, but of special interest, Joyce Kale-Pesta

Carol Rimedio-Reghetti and David Ditzler

Two more commons plea court judges but can't get any names - yet.

An assortment of other government staff and many, many lawyers.

Any wonder why no one wants to talk?

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8Kernaloftruth(86 comments)posted 7 months, 1 week ago

When presented with legitimate Republican candidates, the Vindicator poo-poo's them, so the local Republican Party might as well save its breath for its soup because they will not get a fair shake with this paper notwithstanding qualifications (see last week's digs at Bill Reese).

Bertram de Souza is protecting certain friends in county government, and the fact some people in government here get a pass and some don't makes him equally guilty as those he accuses of corrupt practices. That is why he has failed and continues to fail as a legitimate columnist.

His outright insulting of Mark Munroe begs this response: if you can do better with candidate recruitment, finding candidates/donors to give money or run for office without repercussions from the opposing majority party, and not to mention making up the 100:1 Democratic:Republican deficit you come against every time the Youngstown votes come in, by all means go ahead and try superstar. It is easy to criticize from a point of ignorance, which amazes me how you keep your job.

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9wender(4 comments)posted 7 months ago

Im so tired of Bertram de Souza... he has nothing to report other than the same old. As you read his column day after day, it's relentless. State the fact and move on..... your showing your feeling a little to much. You must have one of those jobs that your grandfathered in and they have no other position to place you.

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10UticaShale(854 comments)posted 7 months ago

Precisely, my wife and I are reading the books, Jungle Inn and Crime Town USA, the Vindy back then was the true watchful eye of the Valley.
Look at it now and they couldn't even maintained a business section like most papers still have. The Business Journal evolved to fill in the void the Vindy left, and shows us there is a market, the Vindy just lost it.
Not that I am against The Vindy, it has a very great past and history. Like a lot of industry, in America, the future generations, have no drive and the current guard has no clue.

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