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Belinky’s obsession was his undoing



Published: Fri, July 11, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

A grand parade: My family and I had a wonderful time, as we always do, at last week’s annual Austintown Fourth of July Parade.

The candy flew, but not with the frequency of previous years. Except for a Dum Dum Pop, which is near the bottom of the candy food chain, nothing hit any of us. I quickly moved the pop with my foot away from my family.

The Austintown trustees had some sort of communications/candy breakdown. While they spotted me, they didn’t shower me this year in hundreds of mini-Tootsie Rolls.

The best hauls came from the candidates running for a seat on the 7th District Court of Appeals. Anthony Donofrio handed me a brown paper bag with two plastic flags and “Skolnick” written with a black marker. It contained a lot of quality candy.

Carol Ann Robb, his opponent, missed me at the parade as she made the fatal mistake of walking on the wrong side of the street as she passed my location. However, she redeemed herself later by delivering to my office an amazing basket filled with chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows — a smores kit.

I first met Mark Belinky in early 2001, a few months after I became The Vindicator’s politics writer.

He was personable, funny and obsessed with politics.

His efforts in 1998 to become Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman and his bid two years later for county recorder were both unsuccessful.

But by 2001 Belinky was making political waves with a group he helped create — the Democrats of the 17th District (later renamed the Democrats of the 17th and 6th Districts when the latter was redistricted into Mahoning County).

The group, with Belinky as its president, brought to light a lot of questionable decisions made by county elected officials and was willing to share the information with me.

Also, the group’s infamous message board was a must-read for anyone interested in politics. It was a combination of outrageous gossip, genuine great tips and opinions.

The county Democratic Party during that time was weak and ineffective, particularly with David Ditzler as chairman, and only slightly better when Lisa Antonini was elected to run the party in June 2002.

Because of that void, the Dems of the 17th attracted more attention than the established party.

As president, Belinky was at the forefront of what some called a good-government effort. Others viewed it as a smear campaign by a politically-ambitious group of outsiders looking to become insiders. It turned out to be both.

A key moment in the group’s history is when it embraced U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, the incumbent in the 6th Congressional District, during the 2002 redistricting that drastically changed its lines.

Meanwhile, leading Mahoning County Democrats fought among themselves as to who would challenge Strickland in the primary. None of the big names ran, leaving Lou D’Apolito, considered at the time a second-tier candidate, as Strickland’s lone primary opponent. The underfunded D’Apolito won Mahoning County, but lost the 11 others.

But rather than be content with being the leader of the vocal minority, Belinky repeatedly tried to join the establishment.

His 2002 bid to beat Antonini for leadership of the county Democrats was ill-advised. His 2004 Democratic primary election for county commissioner, losing to John A. McNally, was foolish. The latter cost Belinky a lot of money he couldn’t afford to spend.

However, Strickland didn’t forget Belinky’s loyalty. In November 2007 Strickland, then the governor, appointed Belinky as county probate court judge.

Belinky was elected in 2008, but recently he admitted in court that he failed to record more than $7,500 but less than $150,000 in contributions, expenditures and loans to his campaign fund during the home-stretch of that general-election race.

On March 14, the day he resigned with his life unraveling, Belinky told me taking the probate appointment was a huge mistake. He said, in a roundabout way, that law enforcement likely had him on campaign-finance issues, and adamantly denied he did anything improper as judge.

An even bigger mistake than taking the appointment was violating the law and the public’s trust.

Political ambition and being in elected office came second to Belinky being an honest person with integrity.

Belinky is “ashamed,” and is singing like a bird to the FBI and state law enforcement agencies about public corruption in the county.

That brings up this question: If his lone crime was taking money for his 2008 campaign and not reporting it, what can he possibly do to help public corruption investigations?

The likely answer is he was involved in much more — or at least knows much more — corruption than his guilty plea to one felony count of tampering with records.


Comments

1listener(112 comments)posted 2 months, 1 week ago

"Also, the group’s infamous message board was a must-read for anyone interested in politics. It was a combination of outrageous gossip, genuine great tips and opinions."

That board was a disaster, 99% of the posts were wrong and not factual, and if you thought you were getting great tips and opinions off of it, it explains why the political reporting of this newspaper sucks.

You also forgot to mention that Belinky was elected secretary of the party in exchange for taking the board down, which he did. He was willing to play ball in order to become somebody.

Expect more charges to be filed (criminal) against Belinky as more cases are rolled out and more people are indicted. Then he will get the jail time he deserves.

I would think, with all that's going on David, you would be breaking news every day, you know, headline making news that sells newspapers.

But why don't you eat another piece of candy instead of reporting on all of the people, that you know, who are rolling over on each other while you sit there chewing. It's pathetic and part of the reason why we can't move forward, you don't do your job.

Suggest removal:

2questionreality(248 comments)posted 2 months, 1 week ago

Antonini, Reardon, Belinky all served as 'heat shields' for the greatest of all BS artists in the county.

http://www.wcpo.com/news/state/former...

http://www.vindy.com/news/2010/jun/10...

Suggest removal:

3gdog4766(1495 comments)posted 2 months, 1 week ago

If law enforcement knew something illegal had occurred why did they wait so long to act. What kicked all this off?

Suggest removal:

4Notorious_Pig(102 comments)posted 2 months ago

Law enforcement knows about 90% of what is going on illegally around here. They choose to act on it when it benefits the "higher powers." When Gotti went down, it was a year that yielded more mysterious death's than any other year before. They had MORE than enough evidence to convict him the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th time he was arraigned. But he was good for business back then. When he got put away, it was in the best interest of the "suits" that ran the city. Same here, with Belinky, etc. They do what they gotta do and when it's time for them to get caught, then that's when it happens. That's why they wait so long. Heck, Cafaro is still walking around free as a jaybird, and will never get put behind bars.

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