By David Skolnick
The Mahoning County Democratic Party knowingly violated state and national parties' mandates that its chairman and vice chairman must be of opposite genders, said an Ohio Democratic official.
“It’s been a rule for a while, and we gave every county party a four-year window” to comply, said Bill DeMora, Ohio Democratic Party secretary. “This reorganizational meeting [Saturday] was the deadline to do so. Mahoning County Democrats are in noncompliance.”
The party re-elected David Betras as its chairman for four more years Saturday. The party also elected Ron Massullo as its executive vice chairman. There were three candidates, all men, in each race.
“They’ll have to elect a female as vice chairman,” DeMora said.
In a May 5 letter to county chairmen, DeMora wrote: “Beginning with reorganization, all chairs/vice chairs MUST be of opposite gender. The ODP will not recognize and will remove any vice chair who is of the same gender as the chair. There will be no exceptions to this rule, which is mandated by the Democratic National Committee and the ODP constitution.”
DeMora said he’s busy helping with the state party’s dinner headlined by Bill Clinton on Friday. After that, his next priority is to meet with Betras and review the Mahoning County Democratic constitution to comply with state and national Democratic rules.
Also, DeMora said Mahoning Democrats are violating state and national rules with secret balloting, and that will come to an end.
Betras said Mahoning Democrats won’t move away from secret ballots — something it’s done for decades.
Betras brought the issue up about two years ago, acknowledging the rules violation, and it was rejected soundly by Democratic central and executive committees members.
“Secret ballots is going to be a huge problem,” he said. “Why pick fights on these issues?”
Betras added there is no way he’ll allow Massullo to be stripped of the position he won Saturday.
“We’re trying to get Democrats elected, and instead of spending money on candidates, [the ODP] wants me to spend it on precinct committee meetings,” Betras said.
Each committee meeting costs about $1,000, he said.
Betras said his plan is to create the position of executive vice chairwoman of women issues on an interim basis, and likely selecting Joyce Kale-Pesta, elected Saturday as party secretary and who also is director of the board of elections, for that spot.
If the chairman is a man, the successor would be the vice chairman of women issues, and if the party leader is a woman, the successor would be the executive vice president, he said.
“I think it will satisfy [the ODP] until I can remedy this,” Betras said.
When asked what will happen if the Mahoning Democrats refuse to make changes, DeMora said, “There are all kinds of penalties for noncompliance, but I don’t want to get into that now.”
The state party could not permit the county Democrats to use the ODP discount on mailing campaign information and not provide access to its computer-software system that gives detailed information on voters.
The loss of those two benefits, Betras said, is a great concern to him.
Meanwhile, Betras announced Monday the appointment of Kathryn Ann Miller of Austintown as the party’s executive director. She is a member of the party’s central and executive committees.
In the position, Miller is responsible for the day-to-day oversight and execution of party activities including staging events, working with local candidates, elected officials and the members of the central and executive committees, operating the party’s Hillman Way office in Boardman and serving as a liaison with the ODP, statewide and national campaigns and the Democratic National Committee.