Dems keep Dr. James as coroner

Interim bests jail doctor in party’s central committee vote

WARREN — Dr. Thomas James, the man handpicked by the late Trumbull County coroner to take over his duties, was selected by the Trumbull County Democratic Party’s central committee Thursday to continue in the position.

James was appointed deputy coroner in January by Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk when he was hospitalized. He was appointed interim coroner after Germaniuk’s death April 20.

In a 64 to 31 vote, James beat out Dr. Phillip Malvasi, who runs the Trumbull County Jail’s inmate medical program. The party’s central committee convenes to fill the empty seats of elected officials, and Thursday, members voted at Enzo’s Banquet Center in Warren.

James will have to run in the November election to hold onto the seat until the end of the term Germaniuk was elected to, which continues through 2020. Other candidates will have a chance to file, too.

James could not attend the meeting because of a commitment to attend this week’s National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America in Dallas.

Jeff Goodman, the party’s parliamentarian, said they offered to reschedule the meeting for James. However, notices of Thursday’s meeting already had been sent before James was consulted about the time and date, and James didn’t want to cause an inconvenience, said former Trumbull County Coroner’s Office forensic investigator Shelley Mazanetz, who recently retired after 29 years.

In his stead, Zachariah Germaniuk, the late coroner’s son, spoke for James.

“My father devoted 20 years of service to the county. First as deputy to Dr. (Theodore) Soboslay, and for the past 10 years, as coroner of this county, until his passing six weeks ago. I was at his side when he died and I have reflected much over these past weeks about my father as a man and his legacy to this community in light of the challenges we face. Tonight is one such moment and the challenge before all of you this evening is to determine my father’s legacy. In January of this year, my father appointed Dr. Thomas James as his deputy as the opiate crisis in this county reached a fever pitch and I consider my father to be a casualty of that crisis. At such times as these, my father and I had many conversations before his death about the need to stay the course,” Germaniuk said.

Kathy Meszaros, chief forensic investigator for the coroner’s office, said James has adapted well to the office’s procedures.

“Dr. Germaniuk has taught us all so much about the proper ways and procedures to do everything. And Dr. James has continued to hold the office to his high standards,” Meszaros said.

There were questions surrounding whether Malvasi could continue as jail doctor and coroner, but the Ohio Ethics Commision Wednesday ruled that he could, but with provisions. However, Malvasi said he doesn’t intend to pursue the office again in November.

Members of the party’s central committee also were concerned about whether party leadership would know who voted for who. In a voice vote, the members voted to destroy the ballots, which contain the name of the member and the way he or she voted. However, after the meeting, Dan Polivka, the party’s chairman, called a representative from the state party who said it would violate the law to destroy the ballots.

The party is expected to meet in early June to reorganize.

Neither James nor Malvasi has a forensic pathologist license, so neither can perform autopsies, as Germaniuk could.

Ohio Revised Code sets the salary for a part-time coroner at $69,739 per year for a county this size. James is considered part-time because he has a private practice.

Without a forensic pathologist on staff, the county coroner’s office has been sending the deceased who need autopsies to the Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office at a cost of $1,275, plus between $250 and $275 for transportation.

Malvasi lost a bid to serve as Trumbull County coroner to Soboslay in 2004. Germaniuk took over after Soboslay retired in 2008.