Mahoning County Trea- surer Daniel Yemma, a Democrat seeking re-election Tuesday, contends his Republican opponent, Christine Lucarell Oliver, has “trumped up” allegations that he used the county’s email account and computer to exchange inappropriate messages with another public employee.
There’s just one problem with the incumbent’s reaction: Oliver and county GOP Chairman Mark Munroe last week provided the press with printouts of the emails.
Despite that, Yemma, who was deputy treasurer when the emails were exchanged nine years ago, denied that he behaved inappropriately. He said the accusation is a “trumped up,” “desperate tactic” from the “playbook of dirty tricks” followed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
But Oliver made the following statement at a news conference last week: “The content of the emails was sometimes startling and clearly represented inappropriate – possibly illegal – misuse of the county’s email system.”
So, what are the voters to make of all this?
Absent incontrovertible proof from Yemma that the emails are fake, residents of Mahoning County are justified in concluding that the county treasurer, at the very least, showed bad judgment in his personal use of government property.
Given the sordid history of government corruption and political shenanigans in the Mahoning Valley, we believe it’s fair to hold public officials to a higher standard than would be accepted elsewhere.
Indeed, an endorsement editorial published Monday shows how critically we view the behavior of officeholders. In endorsing Trumbull County Commissioner Daniel Polivka for re-election, we made it crystal clear we would expect him to resign if allegations of influence peddling in the hiring of county employees are confirmed.
Polivka, chairman of the county Democratic Party, has denied the charges leveled against him by his colleague, Commissioner Frank Fuda.
In the editorial, we unequivocally endorsed Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa.
Thus, in the election for Mahoning County treasurer, we are hard-pressed to support Yemma given the email controversy.
To be sure, he is more qualified than his Republican challenger, Oliver, to serve as county government’s “banker” – as he describes the job. The former Struthers city councilman has been treasurer for more than five years and has generally handled his responsibilities well. There have been some management issues that concern us.
However, we would have had no qualms about endorsing him for another term – but our hands are tied given all that has transpired.
Oliver, a licensed insurance agent, has not run for office before, but she insists that her 25 years in banking, insurance and the financial industry have prepared her for the demands of the treasurer’s job.
In her endorsement interview before The Vindicator’s Editorial Board, Oliver lambasted the incumbent for “a lack of management” in the office.
She pointed to a 2013 management letter from Rea & Associates of New Philadelphia, which audits the county’s finances for the state, to county officials noting that mail to the treasurer’s office containing tax-payment checks “can go unopened for an extended period of time” because of staffing problems.
She also referred to the case of Kyheem Underwood, a summer worker assigned to the mailroom. Underwood, 19, has pleaded guilty to one count of theft in office, three counts each of theft and receiving stolen property and six counts of forgery. He will be sentenced later this month.
One of Oliver’s priorities if elected will be to implement “efficient management practices” that would provide accurate billing statements, payment agreements, daily balances and reconciliation of funds and a reduction of costs.
As we said at the outset, Yemma’s response to the email allegations is inadequate.
Therefore, Oliver receives The Vindicator’s endorsement with the hope that she truly is up to the challenge of serving as the county’s banker.