WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – City leaders in Warren have to plan ahead for what will presumably be a vacancy if the court accepts Auditor Anthony Natale’s guilty plea.
Natale’s attorneys filed a notice on his behalf two days ago, saying he intends to change his previous plea and enter a guilty one to the felony charge of conveying false information related to the use of a weapon of mass destruction.
“Once the plea is accepted by the court by operation of law, that person will no longer be holding that office,” said Law Director Greg Hicks.
Natale is accused of sending white powder through the mail to his former employer, American Business Center, in 2014 after being fired. The powder turned out to be harmless but when it was found, it created a hectic emergency scene.
It wasn’t until March of this year that he was indicted and arrested in connection to the case, just three months after he was sworn into office.
Natale’s next scheduled court appearance could come as soon as next Tuesday.
“We’re looking at all of the possible scenarios because a lot won’t be decided until Tuesday, so my focus has been talking to the staff upstairs, in particular the deputy auditor, making sure that the city’s day-to-day business is being taken care of,” Mayor Doug Franklin said.
Officials say their hands are tied and they can’t do anything until the court accepts Natale’s plea, but they’re prepared for that day whenever it may come.
“The minute the court accepts the plea, it sets the dominoes in motion,” Hicks said. “If things happen as we believe they are intended to, we’ll be prepared to make moves very quickly so there’s no problems.”
The mayor would then have to make a temporary appointment, giving the Democratic party time to meet and decide who would fill the position until the general election.
City leaders are required to wait five days after the position opens before filling it. Then they have 45 days to make a decision.
Franklin said he would highly consider appointing the city’s long-time deputy auditor Nancy Ruggieri, but that he would have to look at all candidates.
In November, an elected candidate would be chosen to serve the remainder of Natale’s term.