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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.


(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.


1kurtw(1832 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Well, Bertram, I'm glad you talked about Engler. He was the "golden boy" wasn't he who along with "Twinkle-toes" Morley was supposed to reform the Dems about a dozen years ago- but it didn't work out very well did it? They may have displaced Hanni but the rot remained. And today we have Betras and we're back to Square One.

The truth is that the organization itself corrupts individuals- not the other way around. Instead of attacking specific political figures- as you have done- whether Engler, or Hanni, or Traficant,- or any of them- too many to list- you should talk about the underlying cause- One Party Rule- which explains it all.

P.S. Of course if you did that- attacked the Democrat Machine directly- your employers- Mark and Mrs. J. might be displeased- as I'm willing to bet most your Subscribers are registered Democrats.

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2kurtw(1832 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Formerdemliberal, excellent point. It's true the Republicans have done a poor job of presenting an alternative vision for the country, but I honestly don't sense a groundswell of disapproval for the Democrat Machine in this area. If enough people get fed up- as I have and I think you as well- with the status qua things will change- they have too- I'm not sure we've reached that point yet.

One problem- the Republicans are Divided (between moderates and Tea Party people)- the Dems have been largely captured by the Left-wing- that gives them more power to move ahead because they're unified.

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months 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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4sue(179 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

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

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5questionreality(737 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

UticaShale nailed it!

To quote Schopenhauer, "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

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6Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 2 years, 5 months ago

Where do you get this stuff?
Ditzler has been in office as commissioner for ONE year. You think in that time he has been so corrupt that the BCI is after him?!?! That is a stretch.

We have been hearing for years now how everyone in Mahoning County govt is going to get charged with a bunch of stuff.

Belinky office is probably the end, not the start of something new.

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7wender(4 comments)posted 2 years, 5 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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