By Peter H. Milliken
Christine Lucarell Oliver, the Republican challenging Democratic Mahoning County Treasurer Daniel Yemma, has charged that apparently inappropriate use of a county treasurer’s office email account has occurred under his administration.
Oliver made the charge in a Friday afternoon news conference at the county Republican Party headquarters.
Oliver said a folder of copies of emails, apparently sent on county treasurer’s office computers, was left in her mailbox Oct. 22.
“The content of the emails was sometimes startling and clearly represented inappropriate – possibly illegal – misuse of the county’s email system,” Oliver said.
Yemma said he “categorically” denies any allegations he behaved inappropriately in the treasurer’s office.
The email accusation is a “trumped-up,” “desperate tactic” from the “playbook of dirty tricks” followed by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Yemma said.
Yemma accused Oliver of using “a tactic normally reserved for desperate candidates with a paper-thin resume.”
“Her behavior, her demeanor, her lack of the basic qualifications and experience, and her playing fast and loose with the truth are a dangerous combination,” Yemma said.
Many of the emails in a large packet released by Republican Chairman Mark Munroe appeared to be between Yemma and a former female clerk of Struthers City Council, and they appeared to pertain to both governmental business and nonbusiness matters.
Clearly visible on the emails is the official city email address for the clerk of council, but the email address Yemma is communicating from often isn’t clear.
Struthers Mayor Terry Stocker could not be reached to authenticate the email exchange and whether its use of nonbusiness content violates city computer-use policy.
Yemma became chief deputy county treasurer in March 2007.
Yemma is a former Struthers councilman who resigned that seat when he became interim treasurer in May 2011. He became county treasurer June 6, 2011.
Much of the email exchange occurred in November and December 2007.
In a Dec. 4, 2007, email, the former clerk informs Yemma of a council committee meeting.
Yemma replies: “... Please officially tell them I’d rather stand naked tomorrow at 10 a.m. on Federal Plaza and let homeless downtown Youngstown people throw empty beer cans and wine bottles at me while I slowly freeze to death.”
“On second thought, please tell them that, due to my work schedule, I will not be able to make it!”
In the email exchange, Yemma and the clerk refer to non-work-related activities they’d like to share in Struthers City Hall, and she expresses concern the emails might go public.
On Thursday, an envelope addressed to Munroe at the Republican headquarters contained a redacted copy of a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, reportedly filed June 2, 2015, against Yemma, alleging he subjected an employee to a hostile work environment, harassment, unfair treatment and inappropriate jokes.
The charge of discrimination, with the complainant’s name and the date she began working in the county treasurer’s office redacted, said the complainant believes she and other women were subjected to a hostile work environment due to their sex in violation of Title 7 of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Luisa Burgos, the EEOC investigator apparently assigned to the complaint, could not be reached to authenticate the complaint or comment on whether an EEOC investigation substantiated it.
The complainant said Yemma had subjected her to a hostile work environment and that the harassment included allowing male employees to go golfing or bowling while women were told they had to complete their work; allowing men to perform lighter workloads and easier duties than women; allowing men in the office to use work email accounts to share inappropriate jokes about women and forcing three female managers to resign.
At the news conference, Munroe said he did not know whether an EEOC investigation had substantiated the complaint and that he had not independently authenticated the complaint or the emails.