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Reach out and touch Cafaro Co. officials



Published: Sun, July 29, 2007 @ 11:04 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


Meanwhile, in the Mahoning County Courthouse ...

Auditor Michael Sciortino on the phone with an irate homeowner who's complaining about the assessed value of his property:

"I'm sorry sir, I can't answer that. Yes, it's true that I've been on the job since September 2005, but I'm still learning the ropes. I was with the board of elections when my friends in Democratic Party orchestrated my appointment.

"However, if you give me all your information, sir, I'll get an answer from my advisers at the Cafaro Co.

"Yes, I know the Cafaros aren't the most popular family in the county right now, but they were really helpful to me during the recent legal battle over the county's purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place.

"What's that, sir? I resent the accusation. Without the help of Cafaro Co. officials, I would have not have known the questions to ask about the county's purchase of the former Southside Medical Center complex.

"No, sir, I'm not a Cafaro puppet."

McNally

Commissioner John McNally on the telephone with a county resident wanting to know how he intends to vote an annexation issue:

"No, ma'am, I haven't made up my mind. Yes, I have studied the issue, but I'm not sure what to do. However, I should have a better idea by the end of the day.

"Why's that? Because I'm going to be meeting with Anthony Cafaro and others and will seek their advice. No, ma'am, I'm not in the pocket of one of the richest families in the Mahoning Valley and I certainly resent the implication that anyone could own me.

"Why do I need to meet with them? Well, I could use some talking points for when the annexation issue is debated by the commissioners. You know, the Cafaros were extremely helpful in providing me with a lot of the details pertaining to the county's lease for the Job and Family Services at the McGuffey Mall and the financials regarding the Oakhill Renaissance Place.

"No, I didn't question their objectivity because they are honorable people and even though they face the loss of $500,000 a year in rent, I believe they had the community's best interest at heart when they sued the county.

"Well, we've all made mistakes, and I think J.J. Cafaro is truly sorry for bribing Jim Traficant. If J.J. had been allowed to voluntarily serve time in prison, I believe he would have done so. But federal prosecutors were satisfied just to have him plead guilty of bribery and they felt that his record as a convicted felon was punishment enough for him. They knew he would be too embarrassed to show his face in public, and that he would shy away from politics.

"What's that? What about the call he made to a county official about the lawsuit? Oh, well, that's J.J. He just cares so much about the community, he can't help himself."

Antonnini

County Treasurer Lisa Antonnini on the telephone with an investment banker regarding the county's portfolio:

"I'm sorry sir, I'm just not qualified to answer that question. Yes, I admit that I should be able to, but at least I have access to people with the ability to discuss such matters with authority.

"I resent your characterization of my service as treasurer. Some people might think that I was appointed to the position just because I'm the chairwoman of the Democratic Party and have some powerful political allies. But, I was the most qualified. Just ask the precinct committeemen and women who voted for me.

"Where will I go to get the answer to your question? I've come to respect officials of the Cafaro Co. and I'm sure they'll be very helpful. How do I know they'll take my call? Because between last August and this March, 28 calls were made or received between me and the Cafaro headquarters. No, I'm not willing to reveal what was discussed."

Creative license

To be sure, creative license has been taken with the dialogue, but what is not fiction is the fact that within a nine-month period, there were 217 calls between the Cafaro headquarters and Sciortino, McNally, Antonnini, John Reardon, who was treasurer prior to being appointed to a state job, and John Zachariah, former head of the Job and Family Services. In addition there were dozens of meetings with the folks from the company and county officials.

It will be revealing — and certainly interesting — when the depositions of these so-called public servants are publicized.


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