Don’t feel sorry for Belinky for leaving probate judgeship
Mark Belinky’s resignation as Mahoning County Probate Court judge prompts this question: Will we ever be rid of the dark cloud of political corruption that is destroying the public’s faith in government?
The answer: Not likely.
Belinky is just the latest in a long line of public officials who have fallen from grace and have been shown to be nothing more than two-bit crooks.
As he slithers out of the probate court, there are reports that federal and state law-enforcement agencies are investigating other allegations of government corruption and that Belinky, in the tradition of those officeholders who have resigned in disgrace, will be chirping in order to get a break from federal or state agents.
We’re glad that there is no honor among thieves in the Mahoning Valley because as each crooked politician tries to save his or her own hide, another layer of government corruption is exposed.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an end to the peeling.
Belinky’s resignation as probate judge is undeserving of sympathy, but it is deserving of praise. He has spared the residents of Mahoning County the pain and suffering caused by his continued presence in the court. As the target of a state criminal investigation, Belinky’s credibility would have suffered as each move by investigators tightened the noose around his neck.
His departure, while not bringing to an end the probe, will mean a little breathing room before the next criminal shoe falls.
Republican Gov. John Kasich will appoint a successor to Belinky until the new term begins in January, and it’s possible that he will select a Republican. If that should happen, the appointee could well run for the office as an independent. The filing deadline for independent candidacies is May 5, a day before the primary.
There is no candidate seeking the Republican nomination in the primary.
Sixteen days ago, in this space, we said Belinky had to go because he would not state unequivocally that there’s no basis for the criminal investigation of him. In addition, his failure to dismiss as meritless the allegations contained in court documents led us to the conclusion that the judge is aware that state investigators are getting closer to the truth about him as a lawyer, a candidate for judicial office and a probate judge.
Just as the March 2 editorial argued that Belinky had given up the right to serve as probate judge, an editorial in February reiterated our long-held belief that non-payment of taxes is a disqualifier for public office.
In 2011, the IRS placed a lien on his home for owing $32,000 in income taxes from 2008 and 2009; last year, he had his paycheck — he earned $105,000 a year — garnished because of $20,000 he owed on a loan from 2008 plus more than $7,000 in interest.
On Feb. 7, agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation served warrants at Belinky’s court office and his Boardman home. With the help of the FBI and the sheriff’s office, they carted off boxes of materials and also took computers.
Court documents reveal that Belinky is being investigated for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, tampering with records, bribery, money laundering, theft and theft in office.
Belinky’s departure could not have come at a better time. He was up for re-election this year, and while he failed to win the Democratic Party’s endorsement, he believed that he could win re-election.
That would have been a political travesty.
Now, voters in the Democratic primary have a choice between Atty. Susan Maruca, who won the party’s endorsement, and Atty. Christopher Sammarone.
Of importance in the election is this question: What was the extent of each candidate’s professional and personal relationship with Belinky?