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:
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.