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Governor selects Rusu to fill probate seat vacated by Belinky

Published: Wed, June 18, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

Kasich awaits GOP’s list of finalists to replace Evans

By David Skolnick



Gov. John Kasich selected Robert Rusu as Mahoning County Probate Court judge, and will have the names of finalists to replace outgoing Judge James C. Evans of county common pleas court by mid-July.

Kasich, a Republican, appointed Rusu to the vacant probate judge seat Tuesday. Rusu, of Canfield, an attorney for 21 years, will start his new job July 8.

Rusu, an independent, was among three finalists recommended to Kasich, a Republican, by the Mahoning County Republican Party to fill the vacancy.

“I’ve always had the hope of being the probate judge, and [Tuesday] my dream came true,” said Rusu, who’s seeking elected office for the first time.

Rusu will serve the unexpired term of Mark Belinky, a Democrat, who resigned March 14 while under criminal investigation. He was found guilty May 8 of a felony count of tampering with records. Belinky’s term expires Feb. 8, 2015.

The court has “taken some criticism and black eyes,” Rusu said. “I want to restore confidence in the court.”

Rusu and Mary Ann Fabrizi of Berlin Center are running in the November general election as independents, while Susan Maruca of Poland is the Democratic nominee.

Maruca beat Christopher Sammarone of Canfield by 200 votes in the Democratic primary.

The county Republican Party recommended Rusu, Fabrizi and Sammarone to Kasich for the appointment. Maruca interviewed for the appointment but wasn’t among the finalists recommended to Kasich. She’s said that decision was politically motivated.

“The screening committee sent down three names to the governor for consideration, and we all felt any of the three would have been a good pick,” said Mark Munroe, county Republican chairman. “There was also a strong feeling that Robert Rusu was by far the best candidate. The governor has made a great choice for the Valley and the probate court.”

County Democratic Chairman David Betras sees it differently, saying Visiting Judge R.R. Clunk should remain probate judge until after the November general election.

“This is clearly a desperate, cynical, political ploy designed to give the appointee an advantage at the ballot box,” he said. “Well, here’s a message for the governor and local Republicans who urged him to appoint Mr. Rusu: It won’t work.”

When asked if being the incumbent will help, Rusu said, “My experience gives me the advantage. I’ve had 1,400 cases in probate court,” and that’s considerably more than others seeking this position.

“People want the court to be efficient, streamlined and helpful, and that’s what I will do,” he said.

Meanwhile, county Republicans are moving ahead with finding a successor to Judge Evans, who recently announced he was retiring effective Sept. 1.

Kasich will be able to replace the judge on an interim basis. The person appointed will have the job until the November general election results are certified.

The seat will be up for grabs in the Nov. 4 general election.

Mahoning Republicans are asking those interested in succeeding Judge Evans, a Democrat, to contact the party for a copy of the application packet at mahoning.co.gop@gmail.com.

The deadline to submit an application is June 30. Applicants can return completed forms to the party at P.O. Box 9012, Youngstown, OH 44513, or hand-deliver it to the GOP office at 621 Boardman-Canfield Road in Boardman.

The office is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Applicants also can call 330-629-7006 to schedule a drop-off appointment.

A local Republican screening committee will meet with candidates during the week of July 6 and provide up to three finalists to Kasich, who’ll choose Judge Evans’ replacement.

That person could be selected before Judge Evans retires and then step right in to replace him, Munroe said.

“Clearly the timing of Judge Evans’ retirement creates an awkward situation for anyone seeking to take his place,” Munroe said.

He added: “However, it is a process that is provided for by law, and I felt it would be irresponsible not to make the opportunity available to potential candidates. Anyone who is serious about running and holding the seat will certainly benefit if they receive the appointment and can run as an incumbent.”

Betras said having the governor appoint someone for such a short time is “ridiculous. Why put someone on the bench for that amount of time? What if Judge Evans rescinds his retirement?”

As for the person selected by Kasich having the benefit of incumbency, Betras said, “The voters are a little more sophisticated than to support someone just because the governor appointed that person for a couple of months. Keep it vacant and let the voters decide. What’s the harm in letting the voters decide rather than ramrodding someone through?”

The winner of the general election would serve the remainder of the term, which expires Dec. 31, 2016.

Democratic and Republican precinct committee members would vote on their respective party nominees to succeed him.

“The timetable for the election is compressed” because Evans is retiring Sept. 1, Munroe said. “We’re still having conversations with board [of elections] employees on dates for party nominations. It has to be done by very early September.”

The board needs military and overseas ballots done by Sept. 20.


1Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Betras said "What if Judge Evans rescinds his retirement?”

Well, moron, in that case the governor won't make an appointment. Why is that so difficult to understand?

Funny how Betras was just fine with Evans retirement jussssssssssstttt before deadline to get someone on the ballot to give Betras' handpicked successor to Evans an advantage, but now it is a problem..

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2redeye1(5675 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

It's amazing the liberturds are out in full force trying to dirty the name of the new GOP appointed judge already . I guess they are worried that this man might just win in November over their Demoncrat member . What a shame , this valley needs to switch how things are done around here. But that won't happen with people like these posters around.here. But the one thing I can't figure out is who's more worried them or Betras about this appointment

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3billdog1(5942 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Some people must really file some vial things for them to be removed. Ignorance is so rampant some days on the Vindy. After so many violations maybe the Vindy should just remove their ability to post.

Anyhow, I'm sure that Mr. Rusu will insure that all corruption is removed from his courtroom. NOT!!!

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4realmen(35 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

Oh please listener !!!! You obviously have NO IDEA what the Probate Court is or how it operates !!! My suggestion to you is to vote for Maruca as she has no clue either. She has never been in Probate Court. Why vote for someone who has had great experience. You are just another Mahoning County MORON !!! Just vote party not person.

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5redvert(2240 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

All right people, enough of this mud slinging, YOU WILL vote for whomever receives the coveted "endorsed democrat" designation. We do not expect any of you to be able to think for yourselves!!!

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6republicanRick(1739 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

If Charles Manson ran as a Democrat, most of the old time Dems would still vote for him.

I'm hearing a lot of the younger generation of these old timers are thinking for themselves and moving away from the corrupt Democrat candidates that their parents so blindly followed. They want a brighter future, better ideas, and less corruption.

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7Cicero(39 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

King(maker) David weighing in with his unseemly political rant. Of course, had Marucca been appointed, he would have praised her as the salvation of the Court. As an "officer of the Court" ( as lawyers are) he should have acknowledged that Rusu has been appointed and given him the respect due any sitting Judge.

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8realmen(35 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

AND WAIT UNTIL YOU SEE MARUCA'S SKELETONS !!!! And believe me, there are MANY !!!!! And they WILL come out !! And what do you have against Rusu ? People don't know, but attorney's do. That is why the Bar Association would not recommend her ! Everyone said Maruca would win 65-35. Well it was 50-50 and she almost lost !!

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9redeye1(5675 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

listener You are the typical thugstown fool who voted the D party way , no matter what. It's sheeple like you that has held thugstown back , Because
!) You seemed to be afraid of change
2) If they aren't a D party member they are worth a crap.
Well take a look around and see what your D party has done foe thugstown . Not a DAMN thing but to drag it into the bowels of hell
Thanks for nothing, That's why the younger generations can't wait to leave this hell hole.

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10Roger_Thornhill(1068 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

"Hopefully Betras will be indicted soon and the problem will resolve itself."

That was amusing.

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11realmen(35 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago

I don't see any indictments coming. For what ? And if it were not for Betras, she would never been endorsed by the dems !!

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12realmen(35 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago


Are there 200 precinct committee members? That was her "victory"

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13realmen(35 comments)posted 2 years, 1 month ago


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