When Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges stemming from his participation in a criminal enterprise, he changed the course of his tenure in office.
Thus, today, the only record that should matter to the voters of the city is the one that has a court docket number.
By any measure, McNally’s performance in office over the past three years and four months has been admirable. He has tackled with aplomb the systemic problems that have long undermined city government. And, he has taken on the challenges that plague older urban communities with a sense of urgency.
From crime fighting, to job creation, to neighborhood stabilization through an aggressive housing demolition program, to the redevelopment of the downtown area, Mayor McNally has been a tireless leader.
Yet, we choose not to endorse him for a second four-year term.
McNally’s criminal record, which we believe defines public corruption, is just too serious to shrug off, as his supporters are willing to do.
We are not prepared to overlook his role while a Mahoning County commissioner in the criminal enterprise that was designed to derail county government’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place.
Mahoning Valley businessman Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. was the mastermind of the scheme to block then-commissioners Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt from proceeding with the transaction. Cafaro, the retired president of the Cafaro Co., corralled McNally and other county officials to do his bidding.
The transaction went through, and the mayor, former county Auditor Michael Sciortino and Youngstown Atty. Martin Yavorcik were subsequently convicted in criminal court for their participation in the Cafaro scheme.
All three are lawyers, and they now face formal disciplinary action by the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct.
The Vindicator’s Editorial Page has a long history of battling corruption in the public and private sectors.
We took on organized crime in the Valley at a time when Mafia leaders were folk heroes who had officeholders and other government officials in their pockets.
We opposed the ever-popular Mahoning County sheriff and Valley congressman James A. Traficant Jr. because of his ties to the Mafia and his use of his public office for personal gain. Traficant served almost eight years in federal prison after he was expelled from Congress. He died in September 2014.
And we have gone after individuals in the region who have used their wealth and influence to corrupt government officials.
Indeed, we have criticized the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland for not releasing the names of Valley residents who were found to have bribed elected officials and other public employees.
The argument we have put forth is simply this: Public corruption occurs when there are government officials with their palms out, and influential residents willing to grease those palms.
We are not prepared to surrender the watchdog role that we have long embraced.
It should be clear by now that our opposition to McNally has nothing to do with his performance in office and everything to do with his behavior in office.
Thus, in the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor in the May 2 primary, we endorse Jamael Tito Brown, former council president, 3rd Ward councilman and Youngstown school board member.
While Brown is receiving our support by default, our long relationship with him reassures us that he will be up to the task of leading the city of Youngstown should he win the election. We also expect him to walk the straight and narrow.
Indeed, the agenda that McNally has pursued is similar to the one articulated by Brown.
In 2013, McNally defeated Brown for the Democratic nomination for mayor by a mere 142 votes.
No Republican has filed to run for mayor. The deadline for independent candidates is May 1.