Ohio’s top court returns 2 requests in Oakhill case to regular schedule

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Anthony Cafaro Sr.

By Peter H. Milliken



After the failure of mediation attempts, the Ohio Supreme Court returned two public records request cases related to Oakhill Renaissance Place to its regular schedule for further action.

The records complaints were filed as mandamus actions at the top court in Columbus by Atty. John F. McCaffrey of Cleveland, a lawyer for the Cafaro interests, in his effort to compel the Mahoning County commissioners and county Prosecutor Paul J. Gains to fulfill his requests.

In those complaints, McCaffrey said county officials haven’t completely fulfilled his records requests in accordance with the state’s open-records law.

However, Gains said the county gave McCaffrey more than 8,000 pages, everything that Gains believes is subject to the open-records law.

“The next step is for us to file an answer, and we’ll proceed accordingly,” Gains said after the top court’s Tuesday action to return the matters to its regular schedule.

“[The court] may make a determination that we have complied with the public-records act,” perhaps without hearing oral arguments, Gains said. “They often handle these cases without oral argument” by relying solely on written arguments in legal briefs, he said of the justices.

McCaffrey is one of the lawyers defending the Ohio Valley Mall Co. and the Marion Plaza Inc., both affiliates of the Cafaro Co., in a criminal-conspiracy case.

In that criminal case, special prosecutors allege those three companies; Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co.; County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, County Commissioner John A. McNally IV; former county Treasurer John B. Reardon, and former county Job and Family Services Director John Zachariah conspired to impede JFS’ move from Cafaro Co.-owned rented quarters to Oakhill Renaissance Place.

The criminal jury trial is set to begin June 6 before visiting Judge William H. Wolff Jr. in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Oakhill is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center, which the county bought in 2006 and to which JFS moved in 2007.

In yet another Oakhill-related legal matter, Gains is appealing the refusal by Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to let the county commissioners spend up to $50,000 to use a Columbus law firm to represent the county in the public-records cases at the state’s top court.

Oral arguments in that appeal are set for 11:30 a.m. Jan. 12 at the 7th District Court of Appeals in Youngstown.

Judge Sweeney said it is Gains’ job to defend the commissioners in the public-records cases and that the Columbus firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease, which charges up to $525 an hour, is too expensive.

Gains said he is entitled to outside counsel in the records cases because he is a defendant in one of them.

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