Former Boardman Township Trustee John Cox wasn't booted out of office last year because voters were swayed by challenger Sam Moffie's claim that Cox had received a $12,300 bribe from mobster Lenine Strollo when he ran for Mahoning County commissioner in 1996. Cox was rejected because the residents of Boardman didn't buy his explanation for how he came to have $12,500 in his campaign treasury. In other words, they didn't believe him.
Thus, when Cox contends that Moffie's reprimand by the Ohio Elections Commission is proof that the businessman lied, we wonder whether the same conclusion could be reached about why he failed in his re-election bid.
Prior to the November 2001 election, The Vindicator gave Cox an opportunity to explain obvious discrepancies in campaign finance reports stemming from his 1996 campaign. What he came up with in two separate meetings with writers and editors of the newspaper was unpersuasive. The explanation raised more questions in our minds. As a result, we chose not to endorse him for re-election as Boardman trustee.
A 1996 campaign finance report listed a $12,300 loan from himself to his campaign committee, but then about a year later he filed an amended report that listed a $12,677 loan to his committee from his son, John C. Cox Jr., who was a medical student at the time. The $12,300 does not appear in the amended report.
Then when confronted with the discrepancy -- the issue was first raised by Moffie -- Cox admitted the money did not come from him or his son and that it was a loan from Boardman businessman John J. Ridel, a member of the civil service commission. Ridel was appointed in 1990 to the commission by the trustees, including Cox.
Would Cox have come forward publicly with this explanation -- albeit tortured -- for the campaign contribution had Moffie not raised it? We don't think so.
Incidentally, he insisted last year that the most he is guilty of is "being a lousy bookkeeper." Lousy bookkeeping is when you incorrectly add a column of numbers, or you put one too many zeros at the end of an amount. It isn't lousy bookkeeping when two wrong names are listed on campaign finance reports -- his and his son's. It's something more. And the voters in Boardman recognized that.
As for Moffie, the 4-3 Ohio Elections Commission vote for reprimand indicates that not all members were convinced that he made a false statement just days before the November 2001 general election when he said that he believed a $12,300 loan to Cox's campaign was really a bribe from mobster Strollo. The former Mafia chieftain is in federal custody for convictions on racketeering and other charges. He has been assisting the Justice Department and the FBI in their war on organized crime and government corruption in the Mahoning Valley.
But the bottom line is that four elections commissioners did find that Moffie had gone too far in charging that Cox had taken mob money. The reprimand is justified.