POLITICS Democrats plan to file complaint on Patton
The state rep says he provides assistance to the incubator.
YOUNGSTOWN -- A local Democratic organization was to file a conflict of interest complaint today with the Ohio Joint Legislative Ethics Committee against a Democratic state legislator running for mayor.
The Democrats of the 17th and 6th Districts say state Rep. Sylvester D. Patton Jr. of Youngstown, D-60th, is improperly receiving benefits from the Youngstown Business Incubator.
Patton doesn't pay rent at the incubator for his district office or for his cleaning company, Delaney's Cleaning Service.
The telephone number for the cleaning service is the same as Patton's district office at the incubator. Patton is the only Statehouse member in the Mahoning Valley with a district office.
Patton says it is a mistake in the telephone book that his company's number is the same as his district office. Patton said the business has always operated out of his home.
Even if his business was located at the incubator, Patton said that wouldn't be an ethical issue.
"It would still be legal," he said. "If you use your position for personal gain, that's illegal. I'm not doing that."
Patton's annual financial disclosure reports he must file with the Ohio Ethics Commission list that his cleaning company made between $50,000 and $100,000 annually from 1998 and 2002. Patton's 2003 and 2004 reports weren't available late Tuesday.
Patton said he gets free rent because of the assistance he gives the incubator -- assistance he says he'd give to any constituent.
"I go to state agencies and get them to put on seminars for businesses at the incubator," he said. "I'm an asset to their companies. I don't get paid for it. I'm getting a little peeved that anyone would think this."
Mark Belinky, secretary-treasurer and attorney for the political club, said Patton is improperly benefiting from the incubator because he pays no rent. Patton has taken credit for providing the incubator with hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds over the years.
Patton "says he's running a start-up business and entitled to free rent," Belinky said. "I don't buy that."
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, is the only other politician with an office at the incubator but pays rent, about $400 to $500 a month.
Patton is running in the May Democratic primary for Youngstown mayor.
But Belinky, who unsuccessfully ran for Mahoning County commissioner last year, said the accusations are not politically motivated.
"If that was the case, we would have done this in April," closer to the Democratic primary, he said. "Our club's mission is to expose problems, corruption and conflicts with public officials. This is just wrong."
Belinky said his group hasn't endorsed a candidate for Youngstown mayor. Thursday is the filing deadline for those wanting to run in the May 3 Democratic primary for mayor.