Boardman voters face an easy, tough choice

First the good news: Thomas P. Costello is running for a full term for Boardman Township trustee in the Nov. 6 general election and has certainly earned the support of the voters. Costello, who was appointed to the board of trustees in December 1999 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Atty. Joseph Houser, has established a record of service that is impressive. His honesty and straightforward manner is a refreshing change from the political rhetoric and double talk that seems to be a hallmark of this area's politics.
The Vindicator strongly endorses Costello's election.
Now for the bad news: While the words honesty and straightforward define one incumbent, they certainly don't apply to a second incumbent in next month's election, John C. Cox. It isn't easy for us to turn our backs on an officeholder we endorsed four years ago, but questions about Cox's campaign finance reports have led us to the conclusion that he isn't worthy of our support this year.
We gave Cox the opportunity to explain obvious discrepancies in his campaign finance reports stemming from his unsuccessful bid for Mahoning County commissioner in 1996. What he came up with in two separate meetings with writers and editors of The Vindicator was unpersuasive. The explanation raised more questions in our minds. As a result, we have decided not to endorse him for re-election.
Others: There are four other candidates in the race: Paul Shovlin, who served as trustee in the late 1980s, Kathy Miller, who ran for commissioner last year and for trustee in 1987, Samuel M. Moffie, who ran for commissioner last year and for trustee in 1993, and Jason Vantell, who sought a state representative seat in 1996.
After interviewing each of the four, we have come to the conclusion that Vantell does not merit consideration as a serious candidate. The other three, Miller, Moffie and Shovlin, all demonstrate a solid knowledge and understanding of Boardman Township. We choose not to make a recommendation as to which one should replace Cox.
Boardman remains a vibrant community, despite the constant challenge of balancing commercial growth with the needs of residents. Armed with Home Rule authority, trustees have the opportunity to address many of the problems that have plagued the township for years. The power of township government is limited.
Given that Boardman is financially stable, the police, fire and street departments are in good shape and things are generally fine, readers might question our decision not to endorse Cox, who has been in office since 1990. It's really very simple: He hasn't adequately explained why he listed a $12,300 loan from himself to his campaign committee on a 1996 campaign finance report, but then nearly a year later filed an amended report that listed a $12,677 loan to his committee from his son, John C. Cox Jr., who was a medical student at the time. The $12,300 figure does not appear in the amended report.
Then when confronted with this discrepancy -- the issue was first raised by Moffie -- Cox admitted that the money did not come from him or his son and that it was loan from Boardman businessman John J. Ridel, a member of the civil service commission. Ridel was appointed in 1990 to the commission by the trustees, including Cox.
Cox contends that the most he is guilty of is "being a lousy bookkeeper." But, of course, taking a surreptitious campaign loan and filing conflicting reports goes far deeper. His not seeing that reveals a blind spot that should concern voters.