This is a corrected version of the editorial that was published Sunday in The Vindicator and posted on Vindy.com
Youngstown Democrats contemplating the high-octane race for the party’s nomination for municipal court judge in the May 7 primary should ponder this question:
Is one candidate’s failure to pay federal, state and city taxes any worse than the other candidate’s show of support for a crooked officeholder?
From our vantage point, both acts are egregious.
We have spent an inordinate amount of time over the years urging the best and the brightest in the Mahoning Valley to get involved in government.
The two candidates in the Democratic primary fall short of the standard we have established for serving the public.
That standard is especially relevant when the prize is a judgeship in the Youngstown Municipal Court.
Attys. Jeffrey Limbian, Youngstown’s city law director, and Martin Hume, former law director, are obviously qualified and have the experience and knowledge to serve on the bench. The winner of the Democratic nomination will challenge Judge Renee M. DiSalvo, a Republican appointed in 2018 by former Republican Gov. John Kasich.
DiSalvo, who took the bench Nov. 5, is unopposed for the GOP nomination.
The winner of the November general election will serve a six-year term.
In the Democratic primary, the baggage Limbian and Hume carry into the race cannot be ignored – at least not by us.
We have been unwavering in our
opposition to candidates who have failed to pay taxes, or those who have had no qualms about supporting officeholders with blemished records.
In 2016, Limbian filed for personal bankruptcy and listed about $430,000 in liabilities, including about $150,000 in unpaid taxes to the federal, state and city governments.
Hume, who served as law director under former Mayor John A. McNally, brought up his opponent’s financial problems during his endorsement
interview with The Vindicator’s Editorial Board.
“I do believe that responsibility is a legitimate criteria for determining whether somebody would be a good judge or not. I think the amount of unpaid taxes demonstrates somebody who’s less than responsible.”
We have long held that nonpayment of taxes is a disqualifier when it comes to holding public office. That’s because people have a right to expect a higher level of behavior and responsibility from those who affect their lives directly or indirectly.
We did not endorse DeMaine Kitchen when he ran for mayor because of non-payment of taxes. Kitchen was chief of staff to former Mayor Charles Sammarone and is now president of Youngstown City Council.
There were several other candidates who were rejected by us for being tax scofflaws.
But while Hume is right in arguing that Limbian’s bankruptcy and nonpayment of taxes make him unfit to serve as a judge, he also has a record that should worry voters.
Indeed, we are perturbed that Hume seemed to downplay his actions when he was asked about them during his Editorial Board appearance.
Here’s the bottom line: During his tenure as then Mayor McNally’s law
director, Hume wrote a letter in support of his boss who had pleaded guilty to four criminal charges for his role in the Oakhill Renaissance Place racketeering case.
McNally, who refused to resign as mayor and unsuccessfully sought re-election in 2017, was sentenced to a year of probation. His law license also was suspended.
When asked about his involvement in the McNally situation, Hume told us he had dealt with the Ohio Supreme Court while it was considering disciplinary action againt the mayor.
But in a story in March 2016, Vindicator Politics Writer David Skolnick revealed that Hume wrote to Judge Janet Burnside of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court prior to McNally’s sentencing.
Hume wrote “that any improper conduct would be extremely out of character for the mayor and is extremely unlikely to recur.”
It’s important to remember that McNally was an officer of the court when he committed the criminal acts during his tenure as a county commissioner.
For his part, Hume was the city’s lawyer and an officer of the court when he stood up for the corrupt officeholder.
It should be clear by now why The Vindicator cannot endorse either Limbian or Hume for the Democratic nomination for Youngstown judge.