By DAVID SKOLNICK
Judicial races are typically dry contests between candidates who don’t criticize each other.
The Democratic primary for Youngstown Municipal Court judge is not a typical race.
City Law Director Jeff Limbian and Martin Hume, the former city law director, are running in the May 7 primary. Each said the other has made poor decisions.
Hume brought up Limbian’s 2016 personal bankruptcy that lists about $430,000 in liabilities including about $150,000 in unpaid taxes to the federal, state and city governments.
Hume said people have to file for bankruptcy “for a variety of reasons,” but “I do believe that responsibility is a legitimate criteria for determining whether somebody would be a good judge or not. I think this amount of unpaid taxes demonstrates somebody who’s less than responsible.”
He added: “It’s a reflection of judgment. It’s a reflection of being able to meet the obligations that you’ve undertaken. I think it’s a predictor of future behavior and it appears to me to be irresponsible behavior especially for someone who wants to be a judge.”
Limbian said he’s paid all of his back taxes.
MUNICIPAL COURT JUDGE
Two candidates are running in the Democratic primary for Youngstown Municipal Court judge. The winner faces incumbent Judge Renee M. DiSalvo, a Republican.
Address: 1418 Cascade Drive.
Employment: Youngstown law director.
Education: A master of law degree from George Washington University Law School in 2005; law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1988; bachelor’s degree in social studies from Youngstown State University in 1982; a 1977 Chaney High School graduate.
Family: Wife, Kerry; one son.
Priority: Fairness to all and to be a full-time judge working five days a week.
Address: 1848 Fifth Ave.
Employment: Mahoning County assistant prosecutor.
Education: Law degree from Ohio State University College of Law in 1981 and bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in 1978.
Family: Wife, Kimberly; two sons.
Priority: To not prejudge any case, give all litigants a fair hearing and render prompt decisions.
“Clearly, there were mistakes made,” he said. “I made some terrible financial decisions in my past. I think a lot of people do. I filed for bankruptcy and worked to move forward. All of my taxes are currently paid; otherwise I would not be running for judge.”
Limbian said: “Some of Mr. Hume’s decisions as law director of the city of Youngstown far eclipse those decisions that I made in my personal life.” He also said of Hume: “There are disqualifying events that need to be brought to light.”
Limbian pointed to Hume as law director approving about $4.5 million from water, wastewater and sanitary funds in 2017 for economic-development projects. The state auditor’s office wants the city to develop a repayment plan from its general fund to the three other funds.
The auditor’s office also has indicated it’s interested in the nearly $1 million spent from those funds for economic development.
“It was bad lawyering and bad decision-making,” Limbian said.
Hume said he was not only acting on a past legal opinion, but a Feb. 15 letter from Roetzel & Andress, a Cleveland law firm hired by the current Mayor Jamael Tito Brown administration, backs his decisions. The letter states the auditor’s office “never clearly identified the grant program as a misuse of water/wastewater funds. In fact, the auditor has assisted the city in refining the grant program.”
Hume said the auditor’s office made recommendations that he implemented including hiring an outside consultant to review and verify requests for reimbursement, and to create a grant verification form that serves as a checklist to ensure proper monitoring of the program.
The winner of the primary will run in the November general election against Judge Renee M. DiSalvo, a Republican appointed by then-Gov. John Kasich to fill a vacancy starting Nov. 5, 2018. The seat is for a six-year term.
If elected, Limbian said he would make significant changes to the court.
The court “is light years from where we should be,” he said. “It is antiquated in its scheduling. It’s overly expensive, it’s underworked, and it’s overstaffed.”
Limbian, 59, also wants to have night court to allow people to handle issues such as traffic tickets without taking time off from their jobs.
He wants to eliminate the magistrate position when Anthony Sertick, who has the job, retires.
Limbian said municipal court judges need to be on the bench five days a week. He said the current judges on the bench work about three hours a day, three to four days a week.
Limbian, who’s practiced law for 31 years, has been city law director since January 2018, and served in that position from January 1995 to February 1997. He’s also a former Mahoning County assistant prosecutor, county juvenile court magistrate and had a private practice before joining Brown’s administration last year.
Hume, 62, said he has a “strong interest in ending the cycle of family violence and will make it a priority to hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their actions.”
Hume said when he was law director he provided assistance in establishing the veterans’ court and the most successful aspects of the program – such as mentorships and intensive counseling when necessary – should be extended to offenders who aren’t veterans.
He also wants to create a specialized docket to address housing-related issues.
Hume, with 36 years of practicing law, has been an assistant county prosecutor since last year. Before that, he served four years as the city’s law director during John A. McNally’s administration, and also served as an assistant county prosecutor from 1997 to 2014, special counsel to the Ohio attorney general from 1990 to 1995, and had a private practice.