BY JOHN A. DARNELL JR.
Mahoning County Dem Party chairman Atty. David Betras, 1491 Barbie Dr., has been rejected for a seat on the Mahoning County Board of Elections by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.
Back in the day, Mr. Betras traveled around the state of Ohio with now disgraced former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, touting Mr. Dann’s candidacy for statewide office. In fact, Mr. Dann and Mr. Betras once shared a law office here in the Mahoning Valley..
Mr. Dann was forced to leave office within a year of his election after getting caught-up in a scandal that involved women and booze. His resignation also spurred an investigation into his election campaign. That probe mentioned the Mahoning County Dem Chairman’s role with the Dann, particularly citing payments to company owned by Dann’s wife, Alyssa Lenhoff.
Lenhoff’s company, Feisty Dishes, received two checks totaling $12,263.47 from her the husband’s Ohio Attorney General’s Transition Account, including a $6000 check on Dec. 22, 2006. The check was signed by Mr. Betras.
Mr. Betras was never charged with any wrongdoing, but his involvement with Mr. Dann did not escape the Ohio Secretary of State, who by law, is charged with the duty of making appointments to county boards of election in the state.
Upon the resignation last month of Michael Morley from the Mahoning County Boardof Elections, Mr. Betras sought to gain the seat, with support from his 95-member executive committee, that endorsed the bid.
Last Friday, in a letter to the Mahoning Dem Chair, Mr. Husted squelched that bid.
“Due to your involvement with wrongful conduct when you were treasurer of Marc Dann’s OAG Transition Account, I find that you do not have the requisite or adequate ability, or qualities to be a member of the Mahoning County Board of Elections and are therefore, not competent....Accordingly, I must reject your appointment to the Mahoning County Board of Elections,” Mr. Husted told Mr. Betras.
Mr. Betras has called a meeting of his executive committee for this Fri., Oct. 7, to discuss ‘options’ in his so-far failed bid for a seat on the county’s Board of Elections.
“They are his hand-picked people, so they should be in his corner,” one long time local Dem Party member said, adding “he didn’t submit any other names to be considered at this meeting.”
According to the Secretary of State, the executive committee can submit a recommendation of another person for appointment to the Mahoning County Board of Elections by Oct. 10; or else the appointment will be made by Mr. Husted.
The Ohio Revised Code requires the secretary of state to appoint the nominee recommended by the party “unless he has reason to believe that [person] would not be a competent member of such a board.”
“Regrettably, I have reason to believe that, if appointed, you will not be a competent member of the Mahoning County Board of Elections. Therefore, I am not appointing you to the board,” Mr. Husted told Betras.
For two consecutive years, Mr. Betras, who touts infamous and profane defense lawyer Don Hanni and junk talk show television personality Jerry Springer as two of the biggest influences in his life, has been honored as a Democrat of the Year by the Ohio Democratic Party.
In addition to the improper payments to Fiesty Dishes, Mr. Husted takes note of a $5000 payment to one of Mr. Dann’s aides, Anthony Gutierrez. The payment was directed to Mr. Gutierrez through a longtime political cronie. Mr. Leo Jennings, who also served as an aide to Dann.
“Dann directed Jennings to call David Betras, treasurer of the Marc Dann OAG Transition Corp., and to tell Betras to write a check to Anthony Gutierrez for $5000, that Gutierrez needed it, it was a loan, and Gutierrez would pay it back. Jennings complied with the instructions given him by Dann, and related the directive to Betras.
“According to Jennings, Anthony Gutierrez provided no services to, or on behalf of the Transition Corp., which would have accounted for such a payment,” Mr. Husted said.
Mr. Betras told The Boardman News that while he would like to fight his disqualification by Mr. Husted, but “It’s not about me. It is about the democrats of Mahoning County. I will let them make a recommendation on Oct. 7.
“My ethics and morals are above reproach. I’m in big time politics and stuff like this happens.”