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MAHONING COUNTY Home on parole, ex-commissioner Lordi says he, not his innocence, has changed



Published: Tue, January 29, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The former inmate still says he's an innocent man, despite the conviction.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

CANFIELD -- Spending eight months in prison hasn't taken the starch out of Frank Lordi.

Locked up for a theft-in-office conviction, the former Mahoning County commissioner came home Monday morning after being granted shock parole last month by the Ohio Parole Board. As he has from the beginning, Lordi insists he did nothing wrong and vows to continue the fight to clear his name.

"We're not going to stop until God tells us to," said Lordi's wife, Marianne. "Until that happens, we're going forward."

Convicted, sentenced: Lordi, 55, of Canfield Township, was convicted by a jury in 1999 and sentenced to serve 18 months in prison.

The jury found that while Lordi was a commissioner, he had county employees do political work on county time. The value of the time they spent doing that was estimated at $200.

Lordi insists he was the target of a politically driven fraud probe. A specially appointed fraud task force still had cases pending when it disbanded shortly after his conviction, Lordi said.

"They ended it when they got me," he said.

Lordi said he spent much of his prison term praying and attending Bible studies and church services. When the parole board told him he was going home, the first thing he did was raise his hands and shout, "Praise the Lord," he said.

He also tried to stay physically fit by walking and doing aerobics.

Lordi said that eight months of incarceration changed his life by making him a better person, able to more clearly see things from different perspectives, including from behind bars.

He said it made him appreciate his friends and family, who were there to greet him when he walked in the door Monday. Smiling broadly, he warmly embraced each one of them.

Cover-up allegation: It also fueled the fire that burns inside him to expose what he says was a cover-up of information during his trial and subsequent appeals. His attorneys have lodged complaints of misconduct by jurors and by David Betras, a specially appointed prosecutor, but those appeals have been denied.

Lordi intends to seek redress through federal appellate courts, still maintaining that he was railroaded.

"I don't think I got a fair shake at the appellate level," he said. "I know the truth is going to come out."

Lordi insists he holds no ill will toward any of the authorities responsible for his conviction and imprisonment.

"They know what they did to me," he said. "They'll answer to God, not to me."

Political future: With a felony conviction on his record, Ohio law prohibits Lordi from holding public office. He has mixed feelings about whether he'd ever seek to have that conviction expunged so he can try again to run for office.

"I loved being a county commissioner so much, but I'd have to weigh that against all I've been through," he said. "Right now, I have a family to take care of and a business to run. That's all I want to think about."

bjackson@vindy.com




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