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In his five years as chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, David Betras has mastered the

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

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

In his five years as chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, David Betras has mastered the art of the political dodge — in dealing with the unending scandals involving members of his party. Betras has learned to weigh his words carefully, as he did when former county Treasurer Lisa Antonini, who had also served as party chair, pleaded guilty to accepting a $3,000 bribe.

Not only was Antonini considered a good and faithful Democrat, but the individual who bribed her has been a long-time good and faithful financial supporter of the Democratic Party. And, Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. is a prominent businessman in the Mahoning Valley.

So, when Antonini went off to federal prison for two months after her conviction in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Betras was anything but judgmental. In fact, he expressed sympathy for the former chairwoman.

As for Cafaro, his name barely passed Betras’ lips insofar as his corruption of government was concerned.

Independent investigation

Likewise, the party chairman rose up in support of county Auditor Michael Sciortino, another good and faithful Democrat, whose brush with the law prompted an independent investigation.

Sciortino had been arrested and then unarrested on a potential drunken-driving charge but rather than condemn the officeholder and drum him out of the party, Betras contended that the intervention of a sheriff’s office commander, Thomas Assion, on behalf of Sciortino was just a show of friendship.

It should be noted that the party chairman is a criminal lawyer.

At the scene of the DUI stop, Assion suggested to the arresting officer, Sgt. James Touville, that he not arrest Sciortino for drunken driving, and instead cite him for a lane violation. The commander drove Sciortino home in the auditor’s car, thus saving his friend from what could have been a DUI conviction. Sciortino had failed the initial field-sobriety test.

The county auditor is a lawyer, and Betras was asked whether, as an officer of the court, Sciortino had a responsibility to reject Assion’s intervention and insist that the arrest be completed.

The Democratic Party chairman dismissed the question as ridiculous.

But last week, lo and behold, Betras had a “Come To Jesus” (CTJ) moment. The reason for his rhetorical indignation was former Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone’s $4,000 campaign contribution — in cash — to DeMaine Kitchen, an independent candidate for mayor in last November’s general election.

Kitchen, a Democrat, had the temerity to run against the Democratic Party’s nominee for mayor, John A. McNally.

“It is quite simply undeniable that the transfer of cash from donors to candidates carries with it the stench of corruption, influence-peddling and back-room dealing that has plagued our community for far too long,” Betras said of the Sammarone- Kitchen cash transaction.

First-degree misdemeanor

But the chairman didn’t stop there. He called on members of the Valley’s state legislative delegation to amend current law to make cash contributions of more than $100 a first-degree misdemeanor.

Those found guilty would be fined up to $10,000 and be required to forfeit the nomination or the office to which the offender was elected, or both.

But as Betras was pontificating about the series of campaign-finance violations involving cash that undermine the “public’s trust in both our electoral system and local government,” this question came to mind: Would the chairman have been as put out had Sammarone given the $4,000 in cash to McNally, the Democratic nominee?

The contribution would have made the former mayor a good and faithful Democrat, right?

The problem Betras has is one of perception. Will he dump his new-found religion the next time a Democrat in good standing ends up in trouble with the law.

Betras knows that government corruption does not occur in a vacuum. To be sure, there are officeholders and other public employees who are willing to sell their souls for so many nickles (they do come cheap in the Valley.) But, the buyers of those souls are just as guilty. Whither Chairman Betras?

*Come To Jesus


1Roger_Thornhill(1063 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

"(T)he next time a Democrat in good standing ends up in trouble with the law."

How long will that take?

3 days? Week? Maybe a month?

Suggest removal:

2rickking123(330 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Nothing to read here, now just move along.....

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

I really thought that BDS would have demanded a 'stop the presses' moment and ordered this column (or is it really notes from a BDS chat around the office water cooler?) rescinded, and a column titled "The Rise and Fall of Mark Belinky" be written.

BTW BDS: Lisa got in trouble FOR NOT reporting a $3,000.00 cash contribution. Plenty of people have taken a lot more taxpayers money and you have not written about it, (now I know 'Lovethiscity' will bash me for this). But what about Chris Sammarone -- the attorney for the MRDD letting Why a Duck quack off with $110,000, as well a candidate for Probate Court Judge receiving $20,000.00 in taxpayers money to open up a bar named Dooney's that his father, the aforementioned Chuck Sammarone (he of the infamous $4,000.00 "CTJ moment for David Betras") who as Mayor of Youngstown and the head of the Board of Control voted for the money going to his son? Furthermore, the bar failed and the $20,000.00 wasn't repaid to the taxpayers, yet Chris became partners (along with his daddy's lawyer, and his partner Brian Ridder) in a new bar named Warehouse 50 and yet the money is still unpaid! Last time I checked $20,000.00 in freebie money is a lot worse than $3,000.00.

Suggest removal:

4lovethiscity(169 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Hey....just finished my research and want to revel who is UticaShale.

It's Ron Eiselstein with a 100 percent certainty. Yep...the research was that good Ron.

So to all of you that have suffered this pretentious idiot's "slings and arrows" on this Board....

time to "fire back" at our little "nuclear missile technician". LOL

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5redeye1(5613 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

GDOG Let me get this straight under the GOP we have had all of these so-called failures. Is that correct? Well under the dumbocrats , social security has been robbed and never been paid back one red cent ( Johnson ) started welfare that has turned in to a career for a lot of people, , gas prices have risen drastically . The rate of inflation was reduced through eliminating things that counted before Bill & Hill took over (Actual rate today is 20,4%, not the 6% they tell us). We have a president now that doesn't even follow our constitution. Oh the dumbocrats have really done a great job. NOT!

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6DSquared(1778 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Somewhere there's a jail cell with his name on it!

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7redeye1(5613 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

GDOG or should I call you Ginger, you know Fred's dancing partner. If you want info on Social Security , just go to their website it's all there. Johnson is the one who started borrowing from SS or should I say robbing SS. Secondly back in the ninety's Bill and Hill rewrote how inflation is factor. Why you ask , so they didn't have to get SS people a raise. This is in the congressional records . Go check. As far as gas prices just go down the street and look at the signs outside of a gas station. The economists of the University of Mass. are the ones saying what the realistic rate is, not me. But I guess when you get everything for free this really doesn't matter to you and your welfare friends As far as the idiot in the WH , who is screwing this country every way but straight. He's CLUELESS just like you.

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8Roger_Thornhill(1063 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Why are you people critical about Desouza writing about the scum?

Why aren't you more upset that the scum acting like they do?

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