Judge in Struthers to resign Sept. 29
STRUTHERS — Dominic R. Leone III, the controversial Struthers Municipal Court judge, will resign his job effective Sept. 29.
In a two-sentence letter to the Ohio Supreme Court, Leone wrote: “Please accept this letter as formal notification that I am hereby resigning from my position as judge with Struthers Municipal Court, effective Sept. 29, 2023. I have enjoyed my time working at Struthers Municipal Court and would like to wish it continued success.”
Leone, of Struthers, did not return messages Tuesday seeking comment and hasn’t responded to several calls over the past month about his pending resignation. Leone has been absent from the court in the past few months, and there was talk of him possibly seeking an unspecified disability claim though none is listed in his resignation letter.
LOST THE PRIMARY
Leone, who was seeking a second six-year term, lost the Democratic primary by 14.6 percent to James Melone of Poland.
Melone will face Republican Jennifer Ciccone of Poland in the Nov. 8 general election.
The court’s jurisdiction includes Struthers, Lowellville, New Middletown, Springfield Township and Poland village and township.
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, could appoint a replacement for Leone to fill out the remainder of his term, which expires Dec. 31. But based on the judicial replacement process with a deadline for applicants, having a screening committee interview candidates and conduct background checks, and making a selection, it is highly unlikely a successor will be named before the Nov. 8 election.
Until a judge is elected, the court’s docket will be handled temporarily by judges assigned through the Ohio Supreme Court.
Struthers Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller sought a protection order May 4 against Leone saying she feared for her safety and the safety of her family and employees in the Struthers municipal building. Her petition stated that Leone harassed her when they went to the same polling location May 2. She said Leone called her names and said he would get “rowdy” with her.
Visiting Judge H.F. Inderlied on June 5 granted Cercone Miller a two-year civil stalking protection order from Leone.
In Inderlied’s decision, he wrote that Leone “engaged in a pattern of conduct that knowingly caused (Cercone Miller) to believe that (Leone) would cause physical harm to (her) and knowing caused (her) mental distress.”
Leone was ordered to stay at least 500 feet away from Cercone Miller, but the court and the mayor’s office are in the same building.
During a May 18 hearing on Cercone Miller’s request, Cheryl Host, Leone’s bailiff, testified that the judge had been making “very loud, screaming” remarks about the mayor in the Struthers city building that began in January. Leone called the mayor vulgar names if he saw her or if someone mentioned her name, Host testified.
Cercone Miller supported Melone in the primary.
Cercone Miller and Leone had issues for months including over the court’s finances.
Leone, who was Struthers law director for six years before he was judge, said in April that the mayor’s office was mishandling money and not using proper accounting methods so he refused to meet with her to discuss the situation. Instead, he issued a March 15 journal entry stating he expected the court to be properly funded and “this court shall not provide any further response with regard to the (meeting) request.”
“Maybe I hit a nerve, I don’t know,” Leone said in April. “But the mayor’s office is choosing to support another candidate based on me wanting to revamp the accounting system.”
At one point, the Mahoning County Board of Elections removed Leone from the ballot because he didn’t have enough valid signatures on his nominating petitions. The board reinstated him at a March 1 hearing after determining he had enough based on affidavits and testimony from those who printed, rather than signed, their names.
At the conclusion of that hearing, Leone danced, flexed his muscle and kissed his arm as he left the meeting room.