Local politics need to be cleansed

Is there something in the water in this area that makes people continue to elect public officials whose transgressions range from the inept to the criminal?

Let’s visit a few ghosts of politicians past. Jim Traficant is well known throughout the country, and not in a good way. Infamous, not famous, is what he is.

Traficant faced charges of racketeering for accepting bribes while sheriff of Mahoning County. He defended himself, claiming he accepted the bribes as part of an undercover operation. He was acquitted.

In most places, those charges would have resulted in a retreat from public life. Not here, though. The Valley elects those people to Congress.

His career as a Congressman ended only when he was convicted of 10 felony counts including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. After his expulsion from the House in 2002, he ran as an independent. In spite of the fact that he was in prison, 28,045 people still voted for him. Beam me up!

As a local attorney, Marc Dann was reprimanded in 2004 for handling a 2002 alimony case without proper preparation. He was appointed to the State Senate when Tim Ryan was elected to Congress in 2002 and won election to a full term in 2004.

In 2006, Dann was elected to the position of attorney general, ironically, in large part due the Coingate scandal of the Gov. Bob Taft administration.

Dann tried to make Columbus ”just so Trumbull County.” He started right off the bat by missing a filing deadline for Ohio to join in an appeal of a Medicaid related case. It also soon became evident that the attorney general’s office had become a frat house for Dann’s friends who were now his employees.

Amid allegations of sexual harassment against his communications director, Leo Jennings, and another employee and friend, Anthony Gutierrez, as well as the revelation that he himself was having an extra marital affair, Dann resigned in May of 2008.

He only did so when it became clear that he would be impeached if he did not. In the days before his resignation, he blamed the problems of his office on his lack of preparation for the job. He also said that his admission and punishment were enough. That might be so in the alternate universe that is Trumbull County, but it isn’t in Columbus.

In addition to allegations for sexual harassment, a report by the then Ohio Inspector General cited 25 specific acts of wrongdoing including improperly using money from the state, a transition corporation, and campaign funds.

Among the questionable purchases was $12,263.47, paid to a dinnerware sales company owned by his wife. Dann reached a plea deal in which he admitted to one violation of misusing campaign funds and was fined $1,000.

What about the present in Trumbull County? We now have Teflon Tim Ryan. Nothing sticks to him. During the time he was a student at Bowling Green State University, Ryan faced three charges of disorderly conduct. He was found guilty of one charge in 1993 for having a fake ID.

Ryan worked in Traficant’s office after graduating from Bowling Green. With this resume, he ran successfully for state senate in 2000. He reportedly told audiences during that campaign that he had a law degree, but he actually obtained that degree sometime later in the year.

It didn’t make a difference that Ryan faced an opponent who was intelligent, worked a real job in the private sector, had been involved in the community and had no criminal record.

In August, now Congressman Ryan was arrested for public intoxication in Virginia, but the charges were never made public until after his re-election. The charges were dismissed, but Ryan had refused to take a breathalyzer test. Taking a breathalyzer would be a way to show conclusively that one is innocent, preventing an arrest; but Ryan refused.

Ryan kept coming up with different stories: It was after a wedding reception and he was taking medication for his back. I don’t know about you, but every time I throw my back out, I always take walks at 2 a.m. My 13-year-old comes up with better excuses than these.

Ryan is talking about running for governor. Ohio isn’t ready for another Trumbull County politician. Hopefully, Ohioans will remember what we’ve given them in the past and not fall for Teflon Tim.

I’ve said that hope won’t be found in political parties or candidates. I do think, however, that one of the causes of hopelessness in this county is the corruption and ineptitude of some of our public officials. We need to realize that we deserve better and do something about it.

Yoder is a West Farmington resident. Email her at editorial@tribtoday.com.