By ED RUNYAN
Auditor Vince Flask didn’t have an easy transition when the Trumbull County Democratic Party Central Committee selected him in July to replace the previous city auditor.
His predecessor, Anthony Natale, was sentenced to prison late last year for mailing a suspicious powder to a former employer in 2014.
On Flask’s first day as auditor, his deputy auditor, Nancy Ruggieri, handed him a list of jobs that needed to be done, one of which was the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which was due in 10 days.
Flask, who does not have an accounting degree, says a CAFR typically takes about four months to assemble.
“I did it on time. And not only that, I got an award [from] the Government Finance Officers Association,” he said.
Flask served on Warren City Council 12 years and owns three Trumbull County Liberty Tax Service offices.
Flask said he poured himself into 16-hour days to complete the CAFR. At the same time, he and the city administration were preparing their campaign to increase the income tax a half-percent. It passed in November.
His opponent in the May 2 Democratic primary is Valdeoso Patterson, who, like Flask, worked at Packard Electric before going into finance.
But Patterson studied finance and business management in college while doing factory work. He has worked in accounting and finance the last 10 years for two companies.
“Experience is important, but lack of education with experience is just not what the city needs,” Patterson said of Flask.
“When we are looking at professions – financial, lawyers, doctors – you could have all the experience in the world, but if you’re not up on the current activities and policies of the financial [world], that experience is almost null and void,” he said.
The primary winner will face Republican Carlo Ciccone in November to serve the last two years of Natale’s unexpired term.
The city also will replace longtime treasurer John Homlitas this year. Democratic candidates running are Tom Letson, former state representative, and Emily Mach, who works in the financial aid department at Youngstown State University. Treasurer serves a four-year term.
Letson said the reason he’s running for the part-time treasurer’s job is because he was a state representative for eight years and was on the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles revenue like the treasurer’s office does.
Letson says the treasurer’s job is to run the income-tax department, which has a full-time income tax administrator who handles day-to-day responsibilities. The treasurer salary is $10,326 annually.
Letson said if elected, he won’t change the department much. “I enjoy the service part of it. I enjoy trying to help people find answers to their problems.”
Mach, whose husband is city Councilman Eugene Mach, said she would keep her full-time job if elected treasurer.
“I’ve heard good things about it, but I’d like a fresh pair of eyes to improve what they’re doing now,” Mach said of the income-tax department.
Mach said she’s used to juggling multiple commitments and will have the time to serve as treasurer because she’ll be finished with her master’s degree by then.
Mach said her financial-aid job is during the day, but she expects she’d be able to use time off during the day to attend to city business if it becomes necessary.
The primary winner will face Republican Ken Perrine in November.