Remove party officeholders facing charges
Former Niles Mayor Ralph A. Infante on Dec. 5 will answer to dozens of criminal charges including, money laundering, bribery, theft in office, tampering with records, ethics violations, running an illegal gambling operation and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. Of the charges, 34 are felonies, stemming back to as early as 2006.
Infante, 61, was unseated as mayor, the office he held since 1992, after he lost last year in the Democratic primary to Mayor Tom Scarnecchia. But he remains secretary of the Trumbull County Democratic Party, and party leadership has no plans to remove him from that post.
As secretary, a position elected by the party’s central committee members, Infante is the keeper of the party’s official records. He is responsible for signing official documents for party appointments and sending the documents to the Ohio Secretary of State to be certified.
Considering that Infante is just the latest in a long line of corruption cases that have landed local Democrats in hot water, we are surprised the political party is not working harder to distance itself from the appearance of a culture of corruption.
A couple of other elected Trumbull County Democrats who have found themselves in trouble in recent memory include former U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant and former Trumbull Commissioner James Tsagaris. Other Democrats who have faced criminal charges in neighboring Mahoning County included Youngstown Mayor John McNally and former Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino.
Yet, last week Dan Polivka, chairman of the Trumbull County Democratic Party, said the party has no plans to remove Infante from his party post. Polivka described Infante’s 56-count criminal indictment as “unfortunate,” but said he is holding off judgment until Infante has his “day in court.”
There is no denying that Infante remains innocent until proven guilty. But after a strong showing by Republicans in countywide races Nov. 8, and ballots cast for Republican President-elect Donald Trump that turned the state and traditionally Democratic stronghold Trumbull County red, one would suspect local Democratic leaders would not be resting on their laurels, but looking for ways to ensure the party is working for constituents, rather than reinforcing voters’ feelings that party leaders have certain entitlements that average people do not enjoy.
Party leaders should demonstrate transparency and avoid political scandals. A good place to start would be to remove Infante from his post — and any party official charged with a crime.