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What does it take to make citizens league's list of suspicious luncheons?



Published: Sat, August 11, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



We're going to share a little inside story with you today.

Back in the early 1980s it became obvious that The Vindicator should have some pictures of Vincenzo "Jimmy" Prato in its files. This was shortly after it was revealed that the FBI had bugged Prato's restaurant, the Calla Mar Manor on Market Street Ext., as part of its investigation of the mob in the Mahoning Valley.

The plan: A nondescript van was procured, its back windows were covered with one-way film so a reporter could see out and a photographer could take pictures, but no one could see in.

A male reporter drove, a female reporter at his side, the theory being that they'd look like a young couple going out to lunch. They pulled into a parking spot in a restaurant directly across the street from the Calla Mar and went in to order lunch while the photographer sat in the back of the van, camera at the ready.

Within minutes, a man -- not Prato -- walked out of the restaurant, looked directly at the van across the street, and made an elaborate obscene gesture.

Best laid plans: So we know what it's like to be caught. And when Bob Fitzer, a board member of the Citizens League of Greater Youngstown, was caught a week ago lying under a tree, binoculars and notebook in hand, as a group of businessmen and politicians gathered at a downtown restaurant for lunch, we could sympathize -- to a point.

Whatever sympathy we may have had for Fitzer evaporated when he refused to explain his mission. (No, we don't believe he was bird-watching.) The generally outspoken Fitzer became suddenly reclusive. Why? We already have the Who, What, When and Where of Fitzer's excursion last Saturday. What's missing is the Why, and we think Fitzer owes the community that much.

The citizens league trotted out Tom Zamary, its secretary, with half of an explanation. "It's about these Cafaro meetings," he said, "We're interested in who shows up at these meetings and what goes on at them. There's a bigger issue here and it's the meetings."

The meetings carry the name of William Cafaro, the Youngstown mall developer who started having occasional roundtable luncheons with his peers and politicians decades ago.

What is it that Fitzer, Zamary and whoever else has been involved in the surveillance suspects goes on at these meetings?

What secret? There's really no reason for the citizens league not to let the rest of us in on the secret now.

If members of this luncheon group have done something wrong, surely they know what it is. And they now know that the citizen's league is on to them. So the only ones left out in the cold are members of the general public.

The citizens league has long preached a philosophy of letting the light shine on wrong doing. Some members of the league have criticized the press, including this newspaper, for not doing enough to expose corruption.

In that spirit of letting the sun shine, the league should explain what method there is behind spending a hot Saturday afternoon lying in pine needles, spying on a group of men enjoying lunch in an air- conditioned restaurant.

Or at least they could tell the public what criteria are used to determine which lunches merit the league's scrupulous attention.

Zamary said the citizens league's executive committee will meet as early as next week to discuss the events of last Saturday and is expected to issue a statement. We'll be waiting.




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