Friday, April 27, 2018
When evaluating the qualifications and backgrounds of candidates for public office, The Vindicator has long embraced that philosophy as an integral consideration when making endorsements.
Given this region’s ongoing reputation as a hotbed for political corruption, even the appearance of impropriety or close association with others accused or convicted of public malfeasance or misfeasance must be avoided if we hope to make any strides toward cleansing the soiled image of the Valley that for far too long has held it back.
We present that preface in our editorial today evaluating the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Mahoning County commissioner in the May 8 primary election because it played a major role in our ultimate decision not to endorse eight-year veteran Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti to a third term on the county’s executive board.
To be sure, on the surface, the 14 years of experience and recognized achievements of Rimedio-Righetti in office as commissioner and a Youngstown City Council member would have made her a clear choice over challenger Joe Paloski, a 21/2-year member of the Board of Canfield Township Trustees, to recommend to voters. But on closer inspection, her willingness to openly support a convicted criminal for public office discredits her person and her candidacy.
That character flaw has risen to the surface in recent years via her close ties with former Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally. McNally, as most will recall, was convicted on criminal charges of falsification, attempted unlawful use of a telecommunications device and attempted unlawful influence of a public official in 2016. The convictions were tied to his involvement in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal-conspiracy scandal.
After the former mayor’s indictment in 2014, Rimedio-Righetti invited the tainted mayor to take part in her 2015 swearing-in ceremony to a second term. Just last year, she actively campaigned on his behalf in his unsuccessful Democratic primary bid for re-election.
McNally “is a friend of mine. I’m loyal to friendship,” Rimedio-Righetti told members of The Vindicator Editorial Board. We believe, however, that loyalty has its limits, one of which must be a recognition of the irresponsibility of maintaining close associations with corrupt political leaders.
Indeed we used that standard last fall in our endorsement of Jamael Tito Brown over Sean McKinney for mayor of Youngstown. Even though we then believed Independent McKinney had the best solutions for the future of the city, we declined to endorse him when he failed to unequivocally assert that McNally should have resigned his position of public trust once convicted.
We therefore cannot in good conscience endorse someone who not only failed to speak up against the crooked politician but who also supported him unabashedly.
In fairness to Rimedio-Righetti we cannot ignore the good works she has done for the county as a member of the three-member board of commissioners. Among them that she points out are her work toward the restoration of the Mahoning County Courthouse, her involvement in working to fill the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place and her role in building a modern county dog pound.
But those good works do not remove the stench of her alliance with corruption.
With that said, we find ourselves unable to endorse her challenger Paloski either.
FLAW OF PALOSKI
Paloski, who has served capably as a Canfield trustee, demonstrated an overzealous penchant for putting Rimedio-Righetti through the wringer without sufficient evidence to do so.
He has criticized her for problems outside of her sphere of influence, including a population decline of 9,000 residents in the county over the past eight years as well as high poverty rates. He has misrepresented her service, accusing her of not caring about economic development in the county and not following up aggressively on her proposal to house homeless female veterans at Oakhill. He has questioned her actions as a commissioner and city councilwoman without having a sound basis to do so.
Paloski, however, is correct in one of the darts he aims at Rimedio-Righetti: Elected leaders should not embrace crooked public officials.
But given Paloski’s inexperience and reckless charges, in this race, we can neither embrace nor endorse either of the Democratic candidates. The winner of this race will face Republican Rick Barron in the fall.