Ohio Secretary of State asks for investigation into new Struthers judge

STRUTHERS, Ohio (WYTV) – Ohio’s Secretary of State is asking the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office to investigate allegations made against newly-elected Struthers Municipal Court Judge Dominic Leone.

Officials with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department have not yet decided if they will investigate the accusations made by two women who claim to be Leone’s former girlfriends.

Major Jeff Allen sent the following statement on Tuesday:

I will be in contact with the board of elections and the prosecutor’s office tomorrow to get all of the information. I will know then what route we are going to take.”

The women made the accusations in October, before November’s general election. They said they saw Leone taking illegal contributions and one said she saw him using marijuana.

Leone has dismissed and continues to dismiss the claims, calling them an attempt to smear his political campaign.

He submitted the following statement on Tuesday:

The sheriff is welcome to look into the matter. I will fully cooperate with any requests. I stand by my responses previously submitted. I hope the sheriff reads my specific responses with exhibits as it doesn’t seem some others have. Other than that, I have no comment.”

Leone went on to defeat his opponent, Damian DeGenova, this fall with 58 percent of the votes.

On November 6, the Mahoning County Board of Elections voted 2 to 2 to ask the sheriff’s office to investigate the allegations against Leone.

Member Tracey Winbush — a Republican — made a motion, which Board Chairman and fellow Republican Mark Munroe seconded.

“To bring it before this board and politicize it is wrong,” board member Dave Betras said during that November meeting.

He and fellow Democratic board member Robert Wasko voted against the motion, leading to the tie. They believed the election of Leone moots the allegation of irregularity.

“Dom Leone’s won the race. There’s nothing wrong there, there’s nothing to see here. It’s just a waste of the taxpayers’ money,” Betras said on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, Betras accused DeGenova of being “personally responsible” for the allegations.

Secretary of State Jon Husted was the tie-breaking vote and on Tuesday, he voted to investigate.

In a letter from Husted’s office to Mahoning County Board of Elections Director Joyce Kale-Pesta and Deputy Director Thomas McCabe, he wrote:

The sworn statements made in the two affidavits raise potentially legitimate questions of whether Ohio campaign finance laws were violated.”

Munroe thinks Husted made the right call.

“When these affidavits came to us, they were filed by the former treasurer and the interim treasurer of the Leone campaign and we were a little bit frustrated that nobody talked to the women that filed the affidavits.”

Even though the sheriff’s department plans on meeting with the prosecutor’s office on Wednesday, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains decided previously not to pursue the investigation into Leone, saying there was insufficient evidence.