The loan officer contends he feared prosecution for obstruction of justice.
WARREN -- A former senior loan officer at the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation alleges he was fired for cooperating with FBI agents investigating ex-congressman James A. Traficant Jr.
In a lawsuit filed in Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas on Friday, Joe' Schoolcraft-Burkey, formerly known as Jody Burkey, says MVEDC received a subpoena in March 2000 requesting information and records from 1990 relating to Gregory Tyson, Big G Construction and Capital Ready Mix. He said it also requested any correspondence from Traficant and his staff, including Charles O'Nesti, Henry DiBlasio, Anthony Traficanti and George Buccella, and correspondence and files related to projects at the Youngstown Warren Regional Airport.
Burkey was given responsibility to respond to the subpoena, and in April 2000, the defendants provided preliminary information Burkey discovered, with the promise to provide additional information at a later date.
In May 2000, Burkey told the defendants they were under legal obligation to supplement the subpoena's requests, advising them of his concerns regarding "unanswered and missing documents and records" requested in the subpoena, the lawsuit said.
Later that month, fearing that he'd be charged with obstruction of justice for not supplying the requested documents, Burkey demanded that the defendants contact the U.S. Attorney to advise him of additional documents and records, according to the lawsuit.
Burkey contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office on his own in June 2000 and was informed the defendants hadn't previously contacted the office and that they "may have obstructed justice by not providing missing documents," according to the suit. He continued to contact the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office, providing them with information.
"In retaliation for [Burkey's] cooperating with the FBI and on or about July 27, 2000," the defendants discharged Burkey without cause, prior to the termination date in his employment contract.
The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, names MVEDC; the Mahoning Valley Industrial Loan Fund; Donald L. French, MVEDC executive director; James E. Glenn, treasurer; George Beelen, president; Frank DeJute, secretary; and Paul Dutton, corporate counsel, as defendants. Burkey lists breach of contract and infliction of emotional distress among his claims.
French referred comment to Dutton, who couldn't be reached.
Burkey worked at MVEDC for 20 years before his termination. He generated 69 percent of all loans written by the agency in 1999, the lawsuit says.