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Dissenters in Oakhill purchase state their case



Published: Wed, May 26, 2010 @ 12:01 a.m.
  Oakhill Probe

Two Mahoning County Officeholders and one former officeholder - show why they still believe buying the former South Side Hospital was a bad choice.

Two Mahoning County Officeholders and one former officeholder - show why they still believe buying the former South Side Hospital was a bad choice.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

photo

John B. Reardon, left, former Mahoning County treasurer, speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Covelli Centre concerning the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place as county Auditor Michael V. Sciortino, center, and Commissioner John A. McNally IV confer. Reardon, Sciortino and McNally said Tuesday that mounting Oakhill-related bills have substantiated their objections to the purchase.

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Two current Mahoning County officials and one former county official, who opposed the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place four years ago, say the accumulated costs of buying, operating and maintaining the former hospital since then have substantiated their objections.

The county can ill afford those costs at a time of financial crisis, they said.

At a Tuesday news conference at the Covelli Centre, Commissioner John A. McNally IV, Auditor Michael V. Sciortino and former county Treasurer John B. Reardon also emphatically denied any wrongdoing with regard to their opposition.

To date, the county has spent $9,961,541 on Oakhill and collected $4,393,051 in rent from its occupants for a net expenditure to date of $5,568,490, according to figures from the county auditor’s office.

The expenses include utilities, maintenance and repairs, debt payments and architectural and legal fees.

An additional $5,809,671 in costs looms for real-estate taxes incurred before the county bought the building, an Ohio Department of Development loan, interest on capital bonds and remaining renovations, the auditor’s figures show.

The commissioners’ office did not respond Tuesday afternoon to a Vindicator request for a breakdown of annual rent, security and maintenance costs that the county would have incurred had its Department of Job and Family Services remained at the Garland Plaza on the city’s East Side, owned by the Cafaro Co., but a receptionist there said the matter would be treated as a public-records request.

In 2006, Reardon recalled he said a new $15 million county-owned-and-operated office building would have been much cheaper than acquiring, maintaining and renovating Oakhill.

Sciortino said the Oakhill purchase is the county’s equivalent of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“We are in our disaster right now. We are in a complete financial meltdown,” he said.

The three men added they haven’t considered pleading guilty to any crime in connection with Oakhill if they were to be charged. They have not been indicted.

The extended grand jury and special prosecutors probing potential criminal conflicts of interest regarding the controversy concerning the Oakhill purchase have a June 3 deadline to complete their work.

McNally, Sciortino and Reardon said they have not been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, and they are declining the special prosecutors’ invitation to testify before the panel.

Sciortino said he won’t accept the invitation because he believes “the invitation itself was not fair and was disingenuous at best.”

Reardon, Sciortino and McNally said the Oakhill special prosecutors — Paul M. Nick and Dennis P. Will — have not made any plea-bargain offers to them under which they could plead guilty to an information rather than face a possible indictment. The filing of an information usually means the defendant won’t contest the charges.

“I haven’t even considered pleading guilty, for heaven’s sake, to anything. I haven’t done anything wrong,” Reardon said.

McNally said he will not resign as a county commissioner if he’s indicted. Sciortino said the same during his recent successful Democratic primary re-election campaign.

Reardon said he met with the special prosecutors and their investigators on three occasions, with each interview lasting several hours.

“They didn’t care about my side of the story, and they don’t care about why I opposed Oakhill,” Reardon said.

He added the special prosecutors declined his offer to take a lie-detector test concerning the Oak-

hill matter.

“I’ve told them everything, and I’ve told them the truth as to why I opposed Oakhill,” he said. “If the grand jury has an opportunity to honestly hear why I opposed Oakhill, then, quite frankly, I’m confident I will not be charged with a crime.

“This is real scary stuff. They’re trying to charge me with a crime that I didn’t commit,” Reardon added. “I am very proud of the stance that I took in opposition to Oakhill.”

McNally and Sciortino said they haven’t spoken to the Oakhill investigators.

Will and Nick could not be reached for comment.

McNally, Reardon and Sciortino met with Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., then president of the Cafaro Co., in Cafaro’s office on the day that the county bought Oakhill in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2006. Oakhill is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.

Cafaro, the former landlord for the county’s Department of Job and Family Services at Garland Plaza, sued the county in an unsuccessful attempt to rescind the county’s purchase of Oakhill, to which the county moved JFS in 2007.

McNally said he makes no apologies for discussing county business with Cafaro, and he would enter into such discussions with anyone else who lives in or does business in the county.

“Our opposition wasn’t about the Garland Plaza. That wasn’t the point. Our opposition was based on our belief that Oakhill was a bad idea,” Reardon said.

“In 2006, we were fearful that Oakhill had the potential of bankrupting Mahoning County, and, sadly, we now understand that it already has,” Reardon added.

“The true bottom line is that the building is a money pit and it was a bad deal,” Sciortino said.

Commissioners Anthony T. Traficanti and David N. Ludt, who supported the Oakhill purchase, have said the project is justified as a long-term investment in a One-Stop shop that brings city and county offices and social-service agencies together.


Comments

1burford(95 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

The costs of Oak Hll are devastating the County. If you wanted a "One-Stop" shop (don't you love those moronic catch phrases from Traficanti) why would you move from one ghetto to another. Build a modern, clean building in the dowtown where it will be a safe location for the foreseeable future.

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2Nunya(1356 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

Just like clockwork,..

This is clearly an effort to sway the jury pool and the criminal cronies owned by Cafaro launches their campaign for leniency.

They know they're been seen for exactly who they are as criminals. Where now just like fellow Cafaro owned crab Jim Traficant they now want to cry conspiracy,..

McNally assails " investigators don't want to hear about the bad decisions that have been made in regards to this building, they're looking for hides on the wall."

Sciortino claims "it was suggested to my attorney that it doesn't matter what Mike Sciortino has to say -- that the process was done."

Reardon claims, "our opposition was based on the belief that Oakhill was a bad idea."

This is all AFTER they met with their boss Cafaro in his personal profit office immediately after their efforts to defend his " personal profit " interests were over rode.

Right before their personal boss Cafaro, who was the landlord for JFS in the Garland Plaza dump on the East Side.

Frivolously sued the county in an attempt to rescind the Oakhill purchase and force the JFS to remain in his property,.. with Dave Betras as a member of his legal council.

That was right in the midst of that same Dave Betras and the now humiliated Marc Dann. APPOINTED Capri Cafaro to a state seat vacated by the Cafaro career funded Marc Dann,..

Reardon was ditched by Ted Strickland out of that State seat. Because they all know that on criminal review. Reardon is going to get pinned with more Cafaro cronies mud on him than a pig in a slop troth.

It's also to be noted all three also vows they will refuse to testify in front of the Grand Jury. Reardon alleges "I just don't have faith that its fair, "

With a coherent testimony of innocence what on earth could hard and conclusive evidence do to prove guilt if they even remotely thought they weren't guilty?

They've not been indicted and yet they're broadcasting a quibbled crafting of trying to allege a conspiracy because they KNOW they're guilty.

So now they're holding elaborate " Press conferences " trying to forge a fig leaf of reasonable doubt to plea to perspective jurors.

Lastly it's to be noted that unlike the three tin men. Antoninni is casting her fate for leniency by remaining quieter than a church mouse.

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3TheLostPatrol(756 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

Public Corruption at its finest. Once again, Youngstown and Mahoning County placed on the, "do not relocate here, list" unless you are willing to fill our local politicians pockets. Makes you want to go run right out there and pass another Levy; while we still drive over unpatched potholed streets in Late-May from a winter that ended in March, and await every weekend for the DUI patrol to nab us with one glass of Dinner wine in our system, so that we can support the local courts and indigent's legal fund. This is like an old western movie being played out where they are "circling the wagons".

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4UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

They all should go to jail over this one. Then their are those of you who voted for the 1/2% sales tax so they can waste even more of our tax money - FOOLS.

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5burford(95 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

There are 2 issues.

1. Did these public officials commit crimes? A grand jury will provide that answer by June 3rd.

2. Was relocating JFS and other county offices to Oak Hill better then relocating these offices to another building such as Phar Mor or a new building? I would argue no. It is in a ghetto and it is and will continue to be a money pit.

Garland was a bad deal for the taxpayers. No one disputes that. Continung to discuss Garland is a waste of time. Even comparing Garland expenses with Oak Hill is a waste since the Prosecutor and Commissioners who leased Garland sold the taxpayers out on a horrible lease. The costs of Oak Hill are killing the County and will get only worse with time.

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6author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

Question -- When will Two Ton Tony, Dumb David and Georgette Tablack have a press conference that disputes the costs of maintaining and improving Oakhill?

Answer -- never! Because as others have pointed out this is probably going to go down as the worst public policy decision ever made by elected officials in Mahoning County. Would have been cheaper to relocate to one of the vacant steel mills for crying out loud.

Other questions. 1) Why did the US Bankruptcy Court help shove this building and idea down the taxpayers throats? 2) Does anyone have a complete list of the board members of the former southside hospital? 3) If Oakhill was/is so bad, why has Commissioner McNally voted for one penny to be invested in it? 4) How did Mahoning County get a loan on the building without having to pay off the property tax lien? 5) How did the bankruptcy court grant clear title with a property tax lien on the building and grounds?

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71970mach1(1005 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

Well, if all they did was meet w/Cafaro, doesn't seem like a big deal. What difference does it make that McNally was childhood friends of Cafaro unless he did something wrong now? Must be something much more being investigated. If not, this is a waste of time.

But Reardon's comments especially seem as though he thinks he is going to be indicted.

I guess all of the speculation is just idle chatter until we see what happens next week .

I'm glad they got out of the dump on Garland. That place was awful. Oak Hill seemed like a good idea at the time, and might still be, time will tell on that.

I'd sure like to hear an explanation from the commissioners who signed that first lease to get into Garland Ave. in the first place. Who made up that commissioners board?

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8author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

To 1970mach 1 --

Three people owned by the special interests!

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9Nunya(1356 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

It is what it is,..

See they didn't feel a need to neither address nor acknowledge the community members in their endeavors of acting in concert with Cafaro to drive his agenda and protect his personal profit interests.

Yet now there's the grand " Covelli center " public address after the State initiated it's probe and the feds are in hot pursuit.

You know the seedy details that's going to be uncovered about those Cafaro cronies. Are going to be so damning they're trying to get in front of it in effort to deflect the impact of mass public disfavor.

See via the way they're posturing now. They'd actually LOVE if they were offered some plea agreements like Cronin got.

But they don't only sense it's not going to happen they don't know to what extent the probe is going and know this isn't their only criminal caper.

So they're trying to play pre-trial victim and contend some undercurrent didn't want them to save the taxpayers money,.. WHAT-A-LAUGH.

They were already fit to be criminally charged for their serial collusion, extortion and acts of defrauding. But quiet profoundly Cafaro himself sunk their ship.

See having so many in his ownership Cafaro evidently just couldn't accept " No ". and his defiance hung his henchmen out to dry when he grabbed an arm full of Dave Betras and tried to strong arm the county in court,.. AND FORCED LEGAL FEES ON THE TAXPAYERS AS RECOURSE.

Which was right in the midst of having the dishonorable Maureen Cronin revealed as one of his personally owned bench misfits. And in the midst of his second confirmed federal elections tampering charge.

See it's quiet clear that those fellas sense that now. Therefore pretty much knowing they're about to get caught up in a Cafaro take down.

That's a lot bigger than this little isolated incident bearing their roles of conclusive guilt in this multi million dollar land grab ordeal.

Before this Sciortino was the quietest primary winner in election history.

McNally tried every trick in the book to become invisible while remaining on taxpayers salary.

While Readon ran all the way back from Columbus contending some sudden need to be closer to family?

Folks it don't take soliciting the services of neither the Pink Panther, James Bond, Perry Mason, John Shaft, Axel Foley, Ace Ventura, Columbo, Austin Powers, Monk, Crockett & Tubbs, Chevy Chase's Fletch nor Undercover Brotha to crack this case.

Those aren't mere suspects on the look those are fingered ringers on the hook. Which it's distinct how they're dealing with having finally gotten detected.

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10harleydog(209 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

The people of this area deserve what they get. They continue to elect and re-elect these thugs to office. I feel no sympathy for the Mahoning Valley. You do this to yourselves. Some things never change.

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11Nunya(1356 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

@Markus57

Exactly,..

See once the crime wave gets away with so much they become brash and jaded and it has a way of coming back to roost with them.

See in this case crime had paid for those guys and it'd not only became career conscious. Selling the offices out for salary plus had paid exceptionally well for that matter.

It's clear they could care less about anybody but themselves and their actions indisputably reveal it.

To act in such manners as they have every resident outside their circle were alleged to be suckers. Just habitations that picked up their recordable salaries separate from their off the books network take.

The very crowd they're trying to play to now are the same crowd they glad handled as easy pickings prey to be pilfered at will or Cafaro's whim.

Although now in hindsight had they been given a chance to do it all over again. I'd bet Cafaro certainly wouldn't have acted so callously as an untouchable.

Especially not while other cards in the names of Trumbull County Commissioner James Tsagaris, dishonored judge Maureen Cronin, Marc Dann's implosion and his brother J.J.'s federal elections charge were coming down the pike and being turned over.

To be so brash, greedy, crass and callous to let just over a half of a million dollars a year in lease take and fringe fleecing via other collectibles he crafted to cash in on from JFS.

Turn into such a snafu that's now got 3 more otherwise operable henchmen to get fingered and soon to be Cronin, Tsagaris and Traficant variety crowbar motel clingon's.

As well as those pawn variety puppets that's now pathetically pandering for reduced pleas. Are now surely internally regretting they tried what they did in regards to their continuing to be criminal cronies.

Acting on enforcement orders to re-secure their Bosses half a million per financial interest. To literally force JFS to remain sentenced and held captive in his otherwise non marketable rat harbor.

It goes without saying there's now a lot of finger pointing going on between them behind the scenes.Where they know they'd better not give Cafaro any sense that they'll flip.

Because just like they know he owns more than them and can use those other pawns against these three pre-indicted awaiting to serve sentencing snacks.

They're also aware that the Cafaro name is known to have flipped on a laundry list of their pawns before. Thus the Cafaro's have got more criminal matters pending beyond this one.

So if those Covelli conference criers that's caught up in this hookup the boss hiccup. As much as dares give camp Cafaro the sense they're willing to talk.

They'll get sold out as prosecution bail bait leverage so fast they'll look at Traficant with envy for him having already done his time.

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12highcherokee(41 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

The FBI is behind this, all they want is to stick a Cafaro in prison. Doesn't matter which one. They will roll over anyone to do it. The grand jury process has no defense, all prosecutor, so of course they only hear the prosecutors side, so an idictment is very possible. Here is the ironic part though, they hang indictments over these guys for the sole purpose of getting them to spill on the Cafaro's. But if they have nothing to spill, they have no bargaining power.
Everyone knows the Cafaro's contribute to the Democratic party. So what? This link is very weak. What about indicting Ludt and Traficanti? They signed this deal only to screw Cafaro. Gains went after it because they supported his opponent. Those are the criminals in this case. Abusing their power for retribution.

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13ohldepharte(25 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

What's all the brouhaha about? This sort of thing is pretty much what you can expect in the Mahoning Valley where crime and corruption have been rampant for so long that they're ingrained into the fabric of local society.

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14Cassie(88 comments)posted 4 years, 3 months ago

I really do not see what they did wrong. They certainly had a right, in fact, a duty to oppose the OakHill purchase if they thought it was a bad deal. There was no reason not to meet with Cafaro who was also opposing the purchase. I do not think any of them recommended staying on Garland--they just opposed the purchase of OakHill. In fact, Reardon had recommended building a new building. This whole investigation and possible prosecution does not pass the smell test. I understand that George Tablack e-mailed some county employees to tell them that if they opposed the purchase of OakHill, they could be criminally prosecuted!!! Is it his sneaky hand involved in this prosecution? And now, it seems that these opponents were right--it was a bad deal for the County--go visit it and see if you would want to work there the way it is right now.

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