YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – On the eve of Election Day, accusations are continuing to swirl around the race for Struthers Municipal Judge.
Monday, the Mahoning County Board of Elections brought them up — and that quickly escalated into a heated discussion from both sides of the table. But does this change anything with Tuesday’s ballot?
“It’s really not my intention to make this a big deal,” said Mark Munroe, Mahoning County Republican Chairman. “But I do confess I was disappointed to learn that we didn’t take a closer look at the allegations made by these two women.”
The two women are former girlfriends of current Struthers Law Director, Attorney Dominic Leone, who is running for Struthers Municipal Judge.
Late last month, the pair filed separate sworn statements against the Democrat, claiming they saw him taking improper campaign contributions and one even saying she saw him using marijuana.
During Monday’s Board of Elections meeting, Munroe called for a thorough investigation into these allegations — citing a “history” of this sort of thing plaguing Mahoning County.
“Because of that history, I think we have an obligation to be thorough in our review,” Munroe said. “Especially when it affects a current city prosecutor and judicial candidate.”
“For you, Chairman, to be picking up the banter of that sleazy, disgusting, vile campaign,” Mahoning County Democratic Chairman David Betras, “and to bring it before this board and to politicize it is wrong.”
Leone is running against Republican Damian DeGenova for the municipal judge seat.
As Director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, it’s Joyce Kale-Pesta’s job to go over the campaign finance reports.
“There is nothing wrong with Mr. Leone’s campaign finances,” she said. “And Mr. DeGenova has a few small things that can be amended. There’s nothing huge in any of them.”
But board member Tracey Winbush questioned why the two women at the center of these allegations were never questioned.
“If someone makes an allegation that is the treasurer of someones campaign and says this is what happened, should we not call them?” Winbush said.
“Tracy, these women went to the sheriffs department first,” Kale-Pesta said. “The sheriffs department sent them to me and I sent them to the prosecutor — that’s my duty. To send it to the prosecutor, I did my due diligence. It’s not my responsibility to question these women.”
The prosecutors office looked into the allegations and found there was no evidence to the claims to move forward.
“We’ve already been through that process,” said Bob Wasko, board member. “It wasn’t done through us formally, but Joyce sent it up and they did what they were supposed to do.”
Ultimately, the 45-minute long debate came down to a vote on whether to pursue an investigation into these allegations, which ended in a tie. Both sides must now send a letter to the Secretary of States office explaining their position.
As for Tuesday’s election, the allegations against Leone change nothing. The ballot will stay as is.
Neither Leone or DeGenova attended Monday’s Board of Elections meeting, so WYTV reached out to both for their response on the vote.
DeGenova said over the phone that he had no comment other than he believes the “process will take it’s course.” Leone, meanwhile, sent me a written statement that read:
In response to the decision of the board of elections not to investigate the issues raised in affidavits by Sarah Yacko and Courtney Mayer-Hoaglin, I believe the board made the right decision. As I stated earlier, I did not attend tonight’s meeting therefore I cannot respond to anything that was discussed at the meeting. As you are aware, both the Mahoning County board of elections and Mahoning County prosecutors office have looked into the matter and after doing so determined no investigation was warranted. I believe the actions of the persons pushing the investigation are purely political in nature. I believe I ran a clean campaign and made a strong case for my election as the next Struthers municipal court judge and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s vote.”