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Let convicted workers pay back salaries

There is so much wrong about the case in which a former Youngstown police officer who also worked as a high school assistant track coach used his position to gain trust and then sexually assault three young women.

The crimes committed by Arthur Carter are horrific, to say the least. They almost certainly will leave his victims with lifelong emotional scars.

Then, there is the matter of his ongoing financial compensation from the city, even though he hasn’t worked since the allegations first came to light. He came under indictment for the crimes in 2018, yet that whole time, city taxpayers paid his $27.07 per hour job until July 16, after he pleaded guilty.

The lengthy paid-leave status cost Youngstown upwards of $100,000.

Then last week, the city wrote him another check, this time for $15,667 for accrued sick and vacation time. To further the outrage, some of that — about $1,900 — was for unused vacation time accrued while he was on paid leave.

Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Natasha Frenchko said Carter admitted to assaulting three girls he coached at Ursuline High School during different times, and over a period of years, he sexually abused each multiple times.

Mahoning Common Pleas Judge Anthony D’Apolito was correct to increase Carter’s prison sentence to four years — one year more than the recommendation from prosecution and defense in exchange for his guilty plea to three counts of felonious assault. We are bothered, however, that more than a dozen original charges were dismissed as part of that deal. Carter, 47, originally was indicted on 23 sex charges involving the three women. As we have previously stated in this space, people in public positions who violate the public trust should face penalties twice as harsh as private citizens who commit similar crimes. They should not get off easier with dismissed charges and plea deals.

Sadly, these young women lost their innocence at the hands of this man whom they believed they could trust. They have learned a harsh lesson that undoubtedly will affect their ability to trust for the remainder of their lives. In her victim’s impact statement, the 2009 victim, who was just 15 when the assault occurred, told the judge Carter “used his power to prey on kids for his own sexual pleasure.”

“Every chance he would get, he would use my vulnerability to slowly manipulate me into thinking he was trying to help,” she said. “Now I know the compliments were only because he wanted something in return. … For the last 11 years, I have struggled to believe that any compliment was genuine. To this day, I still have deep trust issues.”

She said she “lost faith in married men, police, coaches, all authority figures.”

Studies show abuse victims often deal with pain and emotional issues the rest of their lives.

Now it has come to light that Carter will collect $15,667 for time he accrued in sick and vacation time during his years with the Youngstown Police Department. Albeit infuriating, the time was earned while he was working for the department, and the city had no choice but to pay it.

What should change, however, is the fact that no provision exists in Ohio law for “restitution” of public pay and benefits collected while a public employee is on leave during a criminal investigation.

Carter was first placed on paid administrative leave when the investigation began. Indeed, at that time, Carter was presumed innocent. However, the paid leave lasted far too long, especially after he was formally charged.

Paid leave is often the case when public employees come under investigation. We hear often the consideration that goes into this decision. If an employee is fired and then cleared of the charges, he most certainly will sue to return to work — and for probably much more.

In the private sector, however, when it’s believed an employee has acted illegally or unethically, most employers immediately terminate the worker. Very few would send the worker home with pay.

Ohio lawmakers should realize the financial impact cases like this have on taxpayers and should consider new legislation allowing judges to call for payback of salary and benefits doled out over paid leave during a criminal investigation such as this.

While there really is no bright side to this horrible story, we do recognize and praise the courage and strength Carter’s victims displayed. By coming forward, they ended any future opportunities Carter might have had to prey on more young victims.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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