Poland Village takes a risk with the hiring of solicitor

Poland Village may be a quaint little burg that’s spared the pressures of big-city life, but it doesn’t mean the representatives of the people should be held to a lower standard than their peers in larger communities.

Indeed, when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, the need for vigilance is greater in Small Town America because of operating budgets that have little to no cushion.

Against that backdrop, we have serious concerns about the decision by Mayor Tim Sicafuse and village council to bring on board Atty. Jay Macejko as village solicitor.

It is clear that Sicafuse did not do his due diligence in vetting Macejko before recommending him to city council.

Council approved the appointment at its Dec. 20 meeting.

Had Sicafuse done so, he would have known that Macejko was fired from his Youngstown city prosecutor position in 2012 by then Mayor Charles P. Sammarone because he did not meet the mayor’s standards of behavior.

In addition, Youngstown paid more than $100,000 to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by an assistant city prosecutor, Bassil Ally.

Ally sued Macejko, former Mayor Jay Williams and former Law Director Iris Guglicello in federal court. The case was settled with a judgment that resulted in Ally’s being paid $110,000 and given a $4,000 raise. In addition, Macejko wrote a letter of apology to his employee.

Nonetheless, the city prosecutor insisted he did not discriminate against Ally and that the settlement was negotiated with Youngstown’s insurance provider. He took no responsibility for it.

Likewise, he refused to take responsibility for a racist comment about President Barack Obama that was in a log of text messages retrieved from the cellphone of assistant prosecutor Bret Hartup.

Derogatory texts

Macejko denied seeing the Obama entry, insisting that he did not send it. He speculated that it could have been “spam.” His denial defied logic; he had authenticated the text log by acknowledging that he sent derogatory texts about Ally to Hartup contained in the log.

In light of the information that had been made public, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains called on Mayor Sammarone to fire the city prosecutor.

Macejko had served as an assistant county prosecutor under Gains, but ran against him in the 2012 election.

Sammarone launched an independent investigation to determine if Macejko’s behavior was so egregious as to damage the city’s credibility.

After the investigation was concluded, Sammarone fired Macejko saying, “The actions displayed in the prosecutor’s office do not meet my standards.”

And yet today, Macejko is the solicitor of Poland Village.

What were Mayor Sicafuse and city council thinking? They certainly weren’t thinking that Macejko’s record shows a lack of temperament to serve in government, let alone to be Poland Village’s lawyer.

Sicafuse admitted to The Vindicator that he did not conduct a thorough background investigation of the solicitor and acted on the opinions of former solicitor and now county Common Pleas Judge Anthony D’Apolito, village Police Chief Russell Beatty and others.

The mayor said he vaguely recalled the 2012 incident in Youngstown, but didn’t read too much into it.

He said he saw it more as a “personality conflict.”

Therein lies the problem. A six-figure settlement to get rid of a federal religious discrimination lawsuit made clear that what occurred in the Youngstown prosecutor’s office wasn’t about two individuals not getting along – a “personality conflict” in Sicafuse’s words.

Vindicator Reporter Bruce Walton first revealed the details of Macejko’s hiring in a front-page story Monday.

On Tuesday evening, Macejko was sworn in by Judge D’Apolito after council met for 30 minutes behind closed doors with the solicitor-to-be.

Lawmakers went into executive session to discuss Macejko’s stint as Youngstown city prosecutor, and when they emerged he took the oath of office as Poland Village solicitor.

Lawmakers were obviously satisfied with the explanation he gave for what had transpired in Youngstown.

The standards former Mayor Sammarone applied in firing the city prosecutor weren’t unreasonable or unrealistic, and yet, Poland Village officials chose to disregard them.

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