County hires firm to defend against Ungaro lawsuit | News, Sports, Jobs

YOUNGSTOWN – Mahoning County Commissioners have authorized the hiring of Canfield law firm Brouse McDowell at a cost of up to $25,000 to represent the Mahoning County Board of Elections in a lawsuit brought by the township administrator from Poland Eric Ungaro.

Ungaro filed a lawsuit against his withdrawal from the ballot to run as an independent candidate for the House of Representatives from Ohio’s 59th District.

Gina DeGenova, Mahoning County’s chief assistant district attorney, told commissioners at their meeting this week that the district attorney’s office typically represents the board of elections, but the office also serves as legal counsel for the 14 townships, including Poland Township, where Ungaro serves.

“We have a conflict of interest. We cannot take sides, so we request the appointment of an outside lawyer. We’ve secured Brouse McDowell, and the responsible partner will be Matt Vansuch. He has a very good experience in public sector law,” she said.

Vansuch is also a director of Howland Towhip.

The board of elections voted 3 to 1 last month not to certify Ungaro.

Jonathan Blackshire of Baldwin Street in Youngstown, a member of the county Democratic Party Central Committee, filed a protest against Ungaro’s independent candidacy saying he is ‘still campaigning as a Democrat’ and is not eligible to run be on the ballot.

Blackshire pointed to the gallery section of Ungaro’s official website that features the Democratic Party logo in at least 15 photos.

Ungaro’s lawsuit states that the board “abused its discretion and acted unreasonably, arbitrarily and impermissibly in refusing to put” Ungaro’s name on the ballot. The filing says the board’s goal “is to have the Democratic nominee appear as the only name” on the ballot.

The commissioners’ meeting was held Thursday at the Ohio State Extension Service offices across from the Canfield Fairgrounds. Commissioners and other county officials then rode the “Opening Ceremonies Shuttle” to the fairgrounds to participate in the fair’s opening ceremonies.

Commissioners also approved the awarding of $25,000 in US bailout funds to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.

County administrator Audrey Tillis said the $25,000 came from $10 million in “replacement” ARP funds the commissioners received from the federal government. The historical society can use them however it sees fit because replacement funds have no limits on how they can be used, she said.

Funding was provided to replace funds the county had to spend to meet COVID-19 requirements, such as additional cleaning of buildings. The county has yet to commit about $11 million of the $44 million in ARP funds it has received.

Bill Lawson, executive director of MVHS, said the company is “surprised, humbled and grateful for this resolution. It will help the work that we do, not only as a regional historical agency, but in the absence of a county historical society, we fulfill that role.

He said aspects of the society’s work in Mahoning County are especially true in its educational programs and in its collection and archiving of materials for “future generations.”

“We hold a number of county records, including, of course, the contents of the courthouse time capsule from 1908, but all hard copies, Mahoning County Probate Court originals from 1850-1900 about.” He said “working with the Mahoning County Chapter of the Ohio Geneological Society – these records are held in our archives, and I would say genealogists love to touch the originals when researching.”

Lawson said the $25,000 “will go a long way in helping us advance our mission, but also expand the capacity to preserve the county’s history.”

Lawson was part of the ceremonies and helped county commissioners place the new time capsule into the cornerstone of the Mahoning County Courthouse on August 23. The original one was removed in 2011.

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Denise W. Whigham