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Flask loses law license and gains scarlet letter



Published: Thu, May 31, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Edward A. Flask's days as a lawyer are at an end, and if he ever tries to get back into the profession in some other state his criminal record will be there for all to see. It is just punishment for a man who got away with a slap on the wrist -- a 90-day stay in the Trumbull County jail-- after he pleaded guilty to two felony and seven misdemeanor charges stemming from his service as a director of the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District.

But before anyone starts feeling sorry for Flask, it is worth noting that he agreed to permanently surrender his license to practice law. Why would he do such a thing? Certainly not because he is so consumed with shame that he found it impossible to continue in a profession that is based on truth and honesty.

The fact is that the Ohio Supreme Court was investigating Flask with an eye toward disciplining him, and the former MVSD director obviously did not want to risk information coming out that could have a bearing on his civil trial in September.

The Ohio attorney general has accused Flask of Poland and his colleague on the board, Frank D. DeJute of Niles, of paying Gilbane Building Co. of Rhode Island for work it never performed as the contractor on a $50 million capital improvement project at the MVSD's plant in Mineral Ridge.

Lawsuits: The attorney general has filed $2.4 million lawsuits against each of the former directors. DeJute's trial is set for October.

The Supreme Court's decision to paint Flask's permanent resignation as a lawyer with a "scarlet letter" shows that even the top justices in the state aren't willing to assume that he's gone for good from the practice of law.

As Alison Randall, the court's spokeswoman, put it, "If he was to ever seek reinstatement, it would show he did not have a clean resignation. His resignation has been accepted, but they [Supreme Court justices] have designated it with that scarlet letter. If he wanted to go to another state and say, 'Oh, I resigned from Ohio,' they could check here and find he resigned, but he was under investigation for some kind of disciplinary action."

In pleading guilty to the nine criminal charges, Flask, in effect, admitted that he accepted cash and perks from vendors who did business with the water district. In other words, he used his public position for personal gain -- and that's a crime.

Felon: While we are heartened that the scarlet letter -- how about "F" for felon? -- will forever be on his record, we find ourselves wondering what the Supreme Court's investigation would have uncovered that has not already been made public.

Valley residents, in general, and MVSD customers, in particular, were denied an inside look into Flask's crooked ways when he pleaded guilty in the criminal trial. We hope the civil trial becomes a study in public corruption.

Of course, a lot depends on visiting Judge Richard M. Markus. In light of the 90-day sentence Judge Markus handed down in Flask's criminal proceedings, Valley residents are understandably skeptical.

In sending the former MVSD director to the Trumbull County Jail, the judge ignored the recommendation of the prosecutor: 33 months in state prison.

Judge Markus was assigned to the case by Ohio Chief Justice Thomas Moyer.




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