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Ruling by Judge Sweeney on outside counsel flimsy

Published: Tue, October 26, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

Pardon our being suspicious of Judge Maureen Sweeney’s sudden concern about the expenditure of public dollars — after she and her colleagues in the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court have demanded more than $250,000 over the $2.03 million allocated by the county commissioners.

Indeed, Sweeney’s refusal to let the commissioners and the prosecutor hire a Columbus law firm to represent them before the Ohio Supreme Court in a case related to the so-called Oakhill controversy is so transparent as to be ridiculous.

In her ruling, the judge made it clear that she will determine if outside lawyers are necessary to defend commissioners David Ludt, Anthony Traficanti and John McNally, Prosecutor Paul Gains and Assistant Prosecutor Gina Bricker. And, if she concludes that such hiring is justified, she will decide who the lawyers will be.

The county officials are the defendants in a mandamus action in the Supreme Court filed by a lawyer for the Cafaro Co. affiliates over public records pertaining to the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former South Side Medical Center. The purchase facilitated the relocation of the county Job and Family Services agency from the Cafaro-owned Garland Plaza on Youngstown’s East Side.

Gains has said he intends to appeal Judge Sweeney’s ruling to the 7th District Court of Appeals. That’s the proper course of action considering the extenuating circumstances surrounding Sweeney’s position.

In July, we took the common pleas court to task for being so unreasonable in its demand for more money, given the county’s dire financial condition brought on by the national economic recession.

We also made it clear that a meeting being sought by the judges with the commissioners must be held in public. Residents have a right to hear how the judges justify such an eye-popping demand.

As we said in July, “It’s time the private sector taxpayers of Mahoning County, who have had to deal with the reality of pay freezes, givebacks, layoffs and even job eliminations, found out just how well government employees have fared. The guarantee of a lucrative pension, complete with taxpayer-funded health care, remains intact for all public workers and has not been affected by the economic contraction.”

What makes this situation even more egregious is that Sweeney and her colleagues have threatened to sue the commissioners in the Supreme Court for not caving in to their demands.

So, when the judge contends that she has the ultimate authority with regard to the hiring of outside counsel and that the hourly rate paid to the lawyers must be a consideration, we aren’t impressed.

Past practice

In fact, we believe the court of appeals should explore the issue of the judge’s authority, given that not too long ago Commissioner McNally, who voted against the resolution to hire the Columbus law firm, was able to retain a law firm from Cleveland — at taxpayers’ expense — to defend him in an Oakhill-related action because the county prosecutor wasn’t able to. The common pleas court gave permission for the hiring and did not raise the issue of fees or the selection of a local attorney. Three other county officials, Auditor Michael Sciortino, Treasurer Lisa Antonini and John Zachariah, then head of JFS, also were permitted to hire the lawyers of their choice — at taxpayers’ expense.

How was that situation different from what the commissioners and Gains are now requesting?

It appears that Judge Sweeney is trying to bully the commissioners because of the budget impasse. Such tactics must not go unchallenged.


1davidjohn(144 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

the vindicator is truly out of touch

this isnt about the judges budget

they can get their budget with ease

this is about the outrageous request of tablack traficanti ludt and gains

dont include mcnally

he did the right thing for once and voted no

this is a simple public document request

lay people make these requests all the time

the prosecutor has a big staff to reply

either turn over the documents requested

or object to the request

that doesnt need $50,000 worth of outside columbus counsel

at $500 per hour no less

as an aside

if outside counsel was necessary why not local lawyers

there are good lawyers here who would work for far less then $500 per hour

how this for a tactic

the commissioners keep hiring outside counsel

they give them hundreds of thousands of dollars

for doing work a first year lawyer could do

and when traficanti runs who gets letters
for campaign contributions

those outside lawyers

for a $50,000 fee who would not give a sizable donation

the vindicator whines every day about government spending

here you have these officials trying their best to throw away $50,000 of the taxpayers money

and the vindicator says go ahead

and when the county officials were sued in oak hill and outside counsel was approved

why didnt the vindicator do a story on that

did tablack who is not an elected official have outside counsel in oak hill

check into those fees

the community will be shocked

and get back to us when you act like real reporters

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2valleyop(14 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

davidjohn is Judge Belinky

Interesting comments from a sitting judge who isn't supposed to be making any political comments at all!

Hey Vindicator how about investigating this and exposing another public official who's breaking the rules in Mahoning County.

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3escapee(43 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

This public corruption case that gives the defendants secrecy while the public gets nothing is a big bad joke.

It looks like Davidjohn has a desire to create goodwill for the Cafaro's so that they can taint a jury pool.

And who would want an attorney from Mahoning Valley. They don't practice law - they practice some form of good ole boy dollar swaps with each other.

The party with the most money always wins - and guess who has the most money - CAFARO. So guess who is going to win using local attorneys?

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4author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

davidjohn might be Judge Belinky, might be Don Gaudio, Jr., might be Judge Dellick, might be David Venerose - but you cant ignore a lot of the dead on questions and comments that come from his/hers comments (although the posts hurt my eyes)!

Here is my .15 cent wings on the take.

1) Sweeney excused herself (with all the other bought and sold county Judges) from hearing Oakhill Trial. Why is she allowed to rule on this issue?

2) McNally is under indictment. Why was even allowed to vote on this issue that he has been implicated in?

3) Doesn't Sweeney's husband (different last name) make a killing off the county taxpayers with a landfill he owns? Maybe david/john can help me on this. How about Burford?

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5HaydenThomas(208 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Don't you love those who post as agents for the Cafaros? Like Belinky on county time. Time for the Feds to come in and clean this house once again.

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6davidjohn(144 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

not a judge

ysu alum no graduate degree

just because you criticize the commissioners gains and the newspaper

does not mean you are pro cafaro

the courts will decide the cafaros fate

not this web site

or this newspaper

that is the distraction promoted by the incumbents

just dont think the taxpayers should pay lawyers $50,000

oh my god

must be carrying the cafaros water for saying that


if anyone is on this site from the government

probably gains tablack and the commissioners

they cant stand criticism

as ronald reagan once said

are we better off today then we were four years ago

the answer is no


the cafaros must have made me type that

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7author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Sweeney has Fed problems now!

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