Although Jamael Tito Brown’s victory in Tuesday’s election for Youngtown mayor is not a mandate, the outcome does reflect a desire on the part of thinking residents to rid the city of the dark cloud of public corruption.
The complete but unofficial results show Brown, the Democratic Party nominee and a former city councilman, with 5,222 votes. His closest challenger in the four-person race, Sean McKinney, garnered 5,056 votes.
If the result stands after the Mahoning County Board of Elections’ official canvass of the race, Brown will be expected to deliver on the promise to have an honest and transparent administration.
We endorsed him for the four-year term that begins in January because he publicly repudiated the tainted incumbent mayor of Youngstown, John A. McNally.
Democrat McNally pleaded guilty earlier this year to four misdemeanor criminal charges stemming from his role in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy while he was a Mahoning County commissioner.
The Vindicator’s Editorial Board, along with county Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, urged McNally to resign. He refused.
McNally also came across as unrepentant during the May Democratic primary when questioned about his guilt.
Brown was unyielding in his criticism of the mayor. From the time he launched his candidacy, he made it clear that McNally’s criminal record had given Youngstown a black eye.
He was unwavering in his contention that the incumbent should have resigned after he pleaded guilty.
We refused to endorse McNally in the Democratic primary because of the criminal record. The voters obviously shared our opinion. Brown received 4,385 votes to 3,913 for the mayor.
MCKINNEY’S BLIND SPOT
In the general election, the nominee faced three independent candidates, McKinney, Janet Tarpley and Cecil Monroe.
McKinney, who resigned from his position as commissioner of Building and Grounds, posed the greatest challenge. However, he revealed a political blind spot that prompted us to reassess our opinion of him.
While we were impressed with his credentials and the solutions he offered to the myriad problems confronting Youngstown, we were taken aback by his refusal to state outright that Mayor McNally should have resigned after his conviction on the four criminal charges.
The other three candidates showed no such hesitation.
Public corruption has come to define the Mahoning Valley, considering the large number of elected officials, government workers and even organized-crime figures who have been convicted over the years.
But given that the past is prologue, when it comes to public corruption in the region, we have set the ethical bar high for those in government.
It is heartening that a goodly number of Youngstown residents also want to have faith in those they elect to office, as evidenced by the election’s outcome .
During the campaign, Brown, who works for the county Treasurer’s Office and previously was president of council, 3rd Ward councilman and a member of the school board, offered this reason for his candidacy:
“Youngstown needs a mayor who will not cave and compromise to money and power. As mayor, I will restore honesty, trust and integrity back in city hall. It’s about affecting lives and making this city the best it can be. Youngstown deserves better.”
Brown’s first major test will come with his appointment of the finance director.
David Bozanich, who has held the position for many years and has been with the Finance Department for more than three decades, is expected to be indicted in the ongoing state criminal investigation of several downtown development projects.
The developer, Dominic Marchoinda, has pleaded not guilty to the 101 counts detailed in his indictment issued by a Mahoning County grand jury.
Bozanich is implicated in the Marchionda indictment.
Questions have been raised about the use of water and wastewater funds for economic development and about allegations of the misuse of federal and state dollars.
The Youngstown Home Rule Charter gives the finance director sweeping powers, which is why the mayor’s appointment must be approved by city council.
We would urge Brown to consult with Ohio Auditor Dave Yost’s office, which launched the investigation of the downtown development projects, in creating a job description for a national search.
Given the ongoing investigation and the projected $2.5 million general fund shortfall next year, we believe that the next finance director should be a certified public accountant and also have a strong background in government financing.