Mayoral hopeful finally comes clean

On the side

Dueling endorsements: The Youngstown Warren Black Caucus endorsed Youngstown council President Jamael Tito Brown for city mayor over John McNally IV, who received the endorsement of the Mahoning County Democratic Party.

The president of the caucus is Jaladah Aslam, the county party’s vice chairwoman of labor relations. She didn’t score any points with county Democratic Chairman David Betras when she, and other union officials, backed a Republican-nominated judge last year over the Democratic-endorsed candidate.

Betras tried in late February to change the party’s bylaws placing restrictions and penalties on committee members and executive officers who support candidates not endorsed by the party. Party members voted to not consider that proposal and several others.

The caucus is also urging Youngstown voters to reject the charter amendment proposal on the May 7 ballot. In Warren, the caucus endorsed council President Bob Dean, incumbent Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold in the 6th Ward, and Felicia Davis for the open 1st Ward seat.

Matthew Smith, a Democratic candidate for Youngstown mayor, is not a college graduate.

There’s nothing wrong with that except he’s contended he is a college graduate a number of times until finally admitting earlier this week to The Vindicator editorial board that he isn’t.

Smith told the 7th Ward Citizens Coalition, before its members sponsored a March 21 candidates debate, that he had a degree in political science from Youngstown State University. That was included in the debate program.

At the event, Bertram de Souza, Vindicator columnist and editorial writer, asked about the degree. Smith said he went to YSU but graduated from the University of Akron.

Smith then told me last week that he went to Akron, but earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from YSU in 1982.

During his endorsement interview, Smith changed his story again claiming he started at YSU and went to Akron.

After being confronted by his repeated contradictions, Smith said he was mistaken.

He said he took classes at both universities and thought that was the same thing as graduating.

What’s worse: another lie to cover your previous lies or complete ignorance about knowing what it means to graduate?

Smith also complained about drugs in the city. When further questioned, he admitted he was convicted in December 2002 on a drug-related misdemeanor after initially being charged with felony possession.

Smith said he was unaware that a guy driving him had drugs in his vehicle.

Smith also acknowledged he has a handgun possession conviction, and his explanation is comical.

Smith said he saw a gun on the ground, thought it was a toy, and picked it up. It turns out it was real, though Smith said it was broken, and police arrested him.

“It was stupid,” he said of picking up the handgun.

And he wants to be Youngstown’s next mayor.

Behind closed doors

On to a different issue of trust, the credibility of Youngstown city officials took a hit this week.

Six of city council’s seven members met Monday in private with the Cardinal Mooney High School board of directors at the Catholic school as the bishop considers moving the school out of the city.

City Law Director Anthony Farris, who was in attendance, said he determined it was not open to the public even though a majority of council members were there.

“The public business of Youngstown City Council is legislation,” he said. “The council members were not there to deliberate or discuss legislation.”

The “interaction” with Mooney wasn’t a meeting “as defined by” state law, and thus could be held in private, Farris said.

But David Marburger — an attorney for this newspaper, among others, and considered one of the state’s top public record experts — sees it quite differently.

“I have no doubt in my mind that’s a public meeting,” he said. “It was a prearranged meeting with a majority of council members in attendance. It doesn’t matter who called the meeting. I handled a case in the Ohio Supreme Court on something exactly like that and I won it. It’s not even a debatable issue. It’s a public meeting.”

Not one city council member felt strongly enough to refuse to meet privately even though some were hesitant.

I doubt any deals were offered by the city or any big secrets were shared. But closed-door meetings rightfully shake the public’s trust.