By David Skolnick
John Vivo, the Mahoning County Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for Youngstown’s 7th Ward seat, said he’d use “a majority” of his city council salary, should he win, to pay delinquent taxes he owes the county and state.
“I know there are people who have the same problems as me — or worse,” Vivo said. “I believe the voters will vote for me because of who I am and the job I can do. I hope no one will not vote for me because they’re in the same situation. There are a lot of people like me — some owe more than me, some [owe] less than me.”
Council members are paid $27,817 annually.
Vivo owes $14,176 to the county in unpaid property taxes and penalties for his home on East Boston Avenue, his flower shop on Southern Boulevard and a house he owns next to his business, according to county auditor records.
Of the three, the house next to his business has the largest delinquent tax bill — $6,012.
However, as part of a statewide program, that property is being transferred to the county land bank shortly and then demolished, said county Treasurer Dan Yemma. Once the property is turned over to the land bank, Vivo’s delinquent tax bill for that property will be wiped clean, Yemma said.
Vivo has been delinquent on his property taxes on the two Southern Boulevard locations since 2007 and delinquent on his East Boston Avenue house since 2008, according to county auditor records.
“When your business is as quiet as can be, you have trouble making payments,” Vivo said. “I’ve had water, gas and electricity shut off on my house. I owe back taxes.”
County court records list a dozen other cases filed against Vivo for failing to pay state sales taxes, state tax liens, state workers’ compensation fees, and certificates of judgment related to other unpaid bills including a medical facility and banks.
The records date back to 1992.
Vivo said he’s working with the state on paying delinquent taxes.
“I want to pay my bills,” he said. “I’m stepping up to the plate to take care of what I owe.”
Vivo said he owes about $1,000 to the state, but didn’t know about a $951 workers’ compensation claim from 1992, filed by a woman who’s since died, until a Vindicator reporter told him about it.
Also, court records show Vivo was found guilty in 2005 of operating a vehicle while impaired. Vivo said he thought that conviction was sealed.
Seven of eight members of the county Democratic Party’s executive and central committees in the 7th Ward voted to endorse him Wednesday. The other vote went to Basia Adamczak. Holly Lynn Hanni and Christopher N. Travers also are running for the 7th Ward seat, currently held by John R. Swierz. Swierz can’t run for re-election this year because of the city’s term-limits law.
“I’m [running] to better the city and the people of the 7th Ward,” Vivo said.
Vivo served as the party’s secretary for eight years, losing last year to Joyce Kale-Pesta. He’s been a Democratic precinct committee member for more than 20 years.
County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras said he spoke to Vivo on Thursday.
“He told me that business has been bad and he would use his salary to catch up on his taxes,” Betras said. “I’ve known John for years and I take him at his word.”
He added, “I’m deeply disappointed that Mr. Vivo did not disclose the fact that he owed back taxes before seeking the party’s endorsement. The people of the 7th Ward will ultimately determine if he is worthy of their vote.”
Betras said he didn’t know that Vivo had failed to pay taxes until Thursday, though reports began to circulate on social media shortly after the endorsements.