Mahoning County judge resigns

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Mark Belinky resigned Friday evening amid a probe of his dealings by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the FBI and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office.

In a letter submitted to Ohio Gov. John Kasich Friday, Belinky said, “Please be advised that the undersigned is the Judge of the Mahoning County Probate Court. I hereby submit my resignation as Judge of the Court effective this date.”

Belinky would not go on camera, but in a phone interview, he said he made the decision in the best interest of his family and himself.

“I was overwhelmingly elected to be probate judge,” Belinky said. “I was honored to help the thousands of people who came to the court. I was honored to serve them, and I’m sorry I can no longer do that.”

Belinky also said he is very worried about the court and he hopes the governor would put a very qualified person in the position.

Political leaders are calling Belinky’s resignation another black eye for the Valley.

“It’s kind of sad. It’s unfortunate this is happening again in the Valley,” said Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe.

Munroe said Belinky was very well respected by colleagues in the area. Shortly after Belinky sent his resignation letter to Kasich’s office, the governor’s office reached out to Munroe asking for help to find three qualified candidates. After those candidates are selected locally, the list will be sent to Columbus.

“This is the point where politics should be taken out of the process. We want people to come forward,” Munroe said.

Like Munroe, Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras was caught off guard by Friday evening’s resignation, and he released the following statement:

“I like most of you,  were shocked when I heard that  Judge Mark Belinky resigned.  As I said when news about investigation broke, I have faith  in the BCI, the  FBI,  and the  judicial system,  which has clearly worked its course. I think we as a community  should all now focus on the future of the Probate Court and our community.”

On Feb. 7, the Ohio BCI, the FBI, and the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office executed search warrants at Belinky’s home at 4032 Windsor Road in Boardman, as well as at his office.

Some paperwork filed by agents with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation around that date suggests authorities were looking into Belinky’s activities for evidence on a number of possible charges, including bribery, records tampering, money laundering and theft in office, as well as engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

Munroe fears the investigation will have a negative impact on all politicians in the area.

“Over the past 30 years, we’ve maybe seen 30, 40, 50, 60 getting caught up in corruption,” he said.

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