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New Belinky book: "How to go from everyman to elitist in 12 months"

By Todd Franko (Contact)

Published March 18, 2009

Forget the besieged economy; forget the lines of folks who’ve lost jobs.

To understand that Judge Mark Belinky has quickly lost his sense of reason, all you need to know is this: his Mahoning County Probate Court staff got 3 percent raises two months ago.

Two months ago was well into the national and local financial crisis. He could have taken pity on poor taxpayers by telling his staff simply “You know folks, this is not the year.”

Reviewing the news Belinky made Monday – he has a court-ordered 20-percent increase in his budget – it’s clear that the affable guy who slogged for years as an everyman in the courts and who did not miss a parade or pancake breakfast last election year has quickly become one of the ivory-elite.

Belinky’s order on Monday comes amid news that the county will spend at least $4 million less in the general fund due to decreased revenues.

I looked back at the fall campaign to discover when he came clean that a 20-percent budget hike was pending in his administration. Here’s how Belinky foreshadowed his pending budget requests:

In October:
With 12 full-time and three part-time staff members, Mahoning County Probate Court is a much leaner operation than the 23-member Trumbull County Probate Court staff, which handles many fewer cases, Judge Belinky said.
He said his chief magistrate won't be replaced if he retires as expected at the end of this year.
"I've kept the costs down. It's running efficiently," Judge Belinky said of his court.

From election night:
Judge Mark Belinky was appointed in November 2007 to the county probate court bench. He handily fended off a challenge Tuesday, from Judge Scott D. Hunter of Mahoning County Court in Canfield, to retain the job.
"We're trying to have the court control costs as much as we can," Judge Belinky said.

Perhaps Hunter’s election-season characterization was not too misplaced:
"My opponent has a reputation as a highly partisan polarizing individual," due to his past political activities, Hunter said.

Court-ordering a budget increase is a cowardly act unworthy of the trust voters placed in him when they sought proper civic leadership. Period.

It’s a power only judges possess — not sheriffs, not treasurers, not anybody.

Belinky should be ashamed.


1commoncents(53 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Juicy headline and popular point of view, but it lacks knowledge and understanding. In these troubled times we need more of both - and solutions, not pontificated opinions. Mark Belinky has brought more efficiency and effectiveness to the probate court than has ever been seen in Mahoning County. His management of this important function helps a heavy volume of citizens who otherwise would be trapped in an endless delay when they least need such problems. Take a look at the reality of this situation - not just the superficial headline opportunity. By the way, the horribly unfair 3% raise for his staff you rail about is close to $600-$700 per person on average.

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2toddfranko(101 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for weighing in. All your acknowledgments of Mark's feats are valid. But please --- that's what he's paid to do and what every lead manager in any public or private sector group should be doing -- in addition to living more under your means than ever before.
And the 3% raise is a reality that is better than what most people will see --- if they're fortunate to see a paycheck at all this year.

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3tnmartin(426 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Is it unworthy of me to speculate that perhaps, just perhaps, the Judge's sense of entitlement did not come from nowhere? Let's be real, if his last name were Jones or Schicklegruber, or if the family did not have longstanding connections to The Party, what are the chances that he would have been appointed/elected to any position of public trust?
For that matter, judges have long considered themselves to be the modern day equivalent of feudal barons, answering to no one but themselves. This is just one more example of that.

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4ytownguy12(1 comment)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

This book isn't new! Belinky has acted like an elitist jerk for years. When his office was on Federal Plaza, rather than park his car in a lot or on the street like everyone else, he would pull it up on the sidewalk in front of the Metro Tower. When I asked him once how he thinks he can get away with that, he responded by saying "I am a judge, I need to get to court quickly". This guy is a shmo...the voters screwed this one up big time.

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5Cicero(38 comments)posted 6 years, 4 months ago

Another case of "Black Robe" fever. Lord Acton observed "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." I cannot dispute that Mark has made many improvements in his Court, but there is a limit to the funds available. The two issues are distinct. Success in the first does not justify arrogance in the second.

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