By any objective measure, Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti has done a commendable job managing the affairs of government. Yet, we again find ourselves unable to endorse her for re-election Nov. 6.
We use the word again because we face the same dilemma today that we did in the May Democratic primary: How to ignore her willingness to openly support a convicted criminal for public office. As we said in April, Rimedio-Righetti has discredited herself and her candidacy with that inexplicable decision.
We were hoping that our withholding of support for the county commissioner six months ago would have prompted her to reassess her embrace of former Youngstown Mayor John McNally, who has a criminal record stemming from his tenure as a commissioner.
As area residents will recall, McNally was convicted on criminal charges of falsification, attempted unlawful use of a telecommunications device and attempted unlawful influence of a public official in 2016. The convictions were tied to his involvement as a commissioner in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal-conspiracy scandal.
He successfully ran for mayor of Youngstown in 2013.
After his indictment in 2014, Rimedio-Righetti invited McNally to participate in her 2015 swearing-in ceremony to a second term. Just last year, she actively campaigned on the mayor’s behalf in his re-election bid. He lost the Democratic Party nomination to former Councilman Jamael Tito Brown.
McNally “is a friend of mine. I’m loyal to friendship,” Rimedio-Righetti told members of The Vindicator Editorial Board during the primary.
We reiterate what we said then: Loyalty has its limits, one of which must be a recognition of the irresponsibility of maintaining close associations with corrupt political leaders.
Rimedio-Righetti did not offer a mea culpa for her blind spot with regard to McNally, which makes it impossible for us to endorse her re-election bid.
Had we changed our position from the May primary, we would have been accused of hypocrisy and of compromising our long-held belief that government corruption in the Mahoning Valley will end only when officials who break the law and violate their oath of office are held to account.
We have also demanded harsh treatment through the criminal justice system of individuals in our community who use their wealth and influence to own individuals in positions of power.
Rimedio-Righetti has tainted an otherwise impressive record in office – she served as a Youngstown city councilwoman before becoming commissioner.
OPPONENT DOESN’T MEASURE UP
That said, we are hard-pressed to endorse her challenger in the general election, Republican Richard Barron, a self-employed bricklayer.
Barron says he has been interested in politics all his life, but he appears to have ignored the basic rule of seeking elected office: Know what you’re talking about.
Vindicator editors and writers have conducted countless interviews with candidates who talked about reining in government spending – without taking the time to analyze the operating budget.
Barron is no different.
He claimed that the commissioners have spent millions of dollars more since Rimedio-Righetti was first elected in 2010, but failed to offer specifics.
Barron admitted he had not reviewed Mahoning County’s budget.
The Republican challenger also told us he favors rescinding the countywide tax for tuberculosis care and treatment.
However, he was unable to discuss how much revenue the five-year, 0.1-mill levy generates.
It is not unreasonable for voters to expect that a challenger making the budget an issue in his campaign would take the time to study it.
In this age of sound-bite politics, it’s easy to sway uninformed voters by tossing out unsubstantiated claims about government, in general, or officeholders, in particular.
This isn’t to say there aren’t incompetent, uninformed individuals in the public sector. However, if you’re going to question how a government’s budget is being managed, you owe it to the voters to have crunched the numbers.
Thus, as we did in the May primary, we offer no endorsement in the race for Mahoning County commissioner.
Editor’s Note: Details of the candidates’ positions on a range of issues can be found in Vindicator news stories, videos of Editorial Board interviews posted on vindy.com and by accessing the candidate survey forms on the website.