There’s no such thing as a coincidence, which must mean that the telephone call was the result of divine intervention.
“This is Gary Kubic ... ”
It had been years since this writer had heard from Kubic, but the timing of the call was prescient. Why? Because for almost two decades he had worked in the city of Youngstown’s finance department, ultimately rising to the position of finance director.
It was a tenure defined by a word that is under assault in city government today: honesty.
An objective appraisal of recent city administrations will confirm that the one led by Mayor Patrick J. Ungaro, with Kubic as finance director and Edwin Romero as law director, epitomized the best of government.
It was Ungaro, now administrator in Liberty Township, who launched the revitalization of downtown Youngstown. It would have been so easy for him and the two leading members of his cabinet to cross over to the dark side. But they walked the straight and narrow.
As a result, the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies took the Ungaro administration into their confidence as they stepped up the campaign against organized crime and public corruption in the Mahoning Valley.
But if there is a blemish in Kubic’s service to residents of the city of Youngstown, it is that he paved the way for David Bozanich to succeed him as finance director.
Thus, when Kubic left City Hall to become Mahoning County administrator, Bozanich replaced him as Youngstown’s chief financial officer.
Position of power
By any measure it is one of the most powerful positions in city government. That’s because neither the mayor nor members of city council have the qualifications or expertise to delve into the minutiae of the budgets.
Bozanich has taken the position to new heights. But, as the saying goes, “The higher they climb, the harder they fall.” And Bozanich is falling hard.
A criminal indictment relating to his involvement in several downtown projects is just around the corner. He is implicated in the case against developer Dominic Marchionda, who has been hailed by many as the savior of downtown Youngstown.
Marchionda has pleaded not guilty to 100-plus counts in the indictment, which not only lays out the case against him but also alleges that he gave Bozanich a $25,000 bribe in order to gain approval for one of the projects he was developing.
Bozanich’s days are numbered, which is why the call from Kubic was so compelling.
The conversation with the former finance director and county administrator was a reminder that there are honest government servants, rare as they may be.
Fourteen years ago, Kubic left his hometown of Youngstown to take the job of administrator of Beaufort County, S.C. The tourist mecca Hilton Head is located in the county.
He has maintained his ties to Youngstown because of his father and mother, who lived on the West Side until their recent deaths.
Kubic is aware of what has been going on with his protege in the Youngstown Finance Department and the fact that Mayor John A. McNally, who has a criminal record, had the audacity to seek re-election this year.
McNally, who pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges stemming from his role in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal enterprise, failed to win the Democratic Party nomination in the May primary.
Former city councilman Jamael Tito Brown defeated the mayor by making his involvement in the Oakhill scandal – McNally was a county commissioner at the time – a major issue.
In the primary, Brown received 4,385 votes to McNally’s 3,913.
McNally’s supporters continue to insist that what he did as a commissioner on behalf of Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., wealthy and politically powerful shopping center magnate, was just good constituency service.
Cafaro wanted to stop the county commissioners from purchasing the Oakhill Renaissance Place because two of the commissioners at the time, Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt, publicly pledged to move the county’s Job and Family Services agency out of the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza on Youngtown’s East Side and into Oakhill Renaissance.
McNally, taking his orders from Cafaro, sought to undermine the purchase of the former hospital complex.
He failed, but was undaunted by the state and federal investigations that targeted him.
He ran for mayor of Youngstown four years ago and won. He was indicted after he took office but refused to step down.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to the four misdemeanor charges, and again refused to resign.
Now, he is on his final lap as Youngstown’s chief executive officer, and has the distinction of being the only mayor in recent memory to hold office with a criminal record as his claim to fame.
And before McNally leaves in December, he could well witness his finance director being led away in handcuffs.
While Kubic will not pass judgment on his successor, he does have this piece of advice for the next mayor: Hire a nationally renowned accounting company to conduct a formal analysis of city government’s finances.
The need for such a financial review is obvious: First, it would tell the taxpayers whether Bozanich’s warning of a projected $3 million shortfall in the general fund has any merit. Second, the review would show just how fast and loose the finance director has played with taxpayer dollars.
Given Kubic’s intimate knowledge of Youngstown’s finances and his expertise in government financing, he was asked if he would be willing to return to Youngstown and take over the finance department on a temporary basis.
He said no – but left the door open a crack.
There is always the possibility that Kubic would be willing to serve as a consultant to the new mayor.
In fact, he offered this sensible suggestion: The new finance director should be a certified public accountant with extensive government accounting experience.
Here’s the bottom line: Public trust in Youngstown city government will not be restored if the new mayor appoints political hacks to key positions.