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Oakhill is not on trial

Published: Sun, September 5, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

The criminal case against current and former Mahoning County government officials and members of a prominent Valley family centers on one issue: political corruption.

The case isn’t about the decision by Mahoning County to move the Job and Family Services agency from one location to another. And, it certainly isn’t about the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former South Side Medical Center in Youngstown.

Despite what defense lawyers contend, and what a recent front-page headline in The Vindicator suggested, Oakhill is not on trial.

If it were, then the Garland Plaza (McGuffey Mall) on Youngstown’s East Side would also be on trial. Why? Because the plaza, owned by the Cafaro Co., one of the largest shopping center developers in the country, is at the heart of what has now come to be known as the JFS relocation controversy.

For almost two decades, Mahoning County had leased space in the plaza, and in the last years of the agreement had been spending at least $1.2 million for rent and other expenses.

The relocation was pushed by the JFS employees, who contended that the building was a health hazard. Almost 100 worker’s compensation health claims had been filed while the agency was at Garland.

Oakhill purchase

Thus, the decision was made by the commissioners to move the agency to another location, and after studying various options, two of the three commissioners, Anthony Traficanti and David Ludt, voted to purchase Oakhill Renaissance Place.

Commissioner John A. McNally IV voted against the purchase. McNally is one of the seven individuals charged in what the state says was a criminal enterprise.

In a nutshell, McNally, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former county Treasurer John Reardon, former JFS Director John Zachariah, former Cafaro Co. President Anthony Cafaro Sr., company executive Flora Cafaro, and Atty. Martin Yavorcik are accused of trying to undermine the conduct of official government business.

How this enterprise operated will be laid out in detail when the bill of particulars relating to the indictments are filed by the special prosecutors, and when evidence is presented through discovery.

Suffice it to say that the state will be out to prove that the Cafaro brother and sister used their financial wealth and influence — three of their companies, Cafaro Co., Ohio Valley Mall and Marion Plaza, were also named in the indictments — to corrupt the current and former county government officials.

All the defendants have denied the charges and promise to fight them in court.

Last week’s release of a bill of particulars pertaining to the charges against Flora Cafaro and Yavorcik sheds a great deal of light on the direction the prosecutor are taking the case.

The details of the bill of particulars were published in Wednesday’s Vindicator.

But there’s one sentence in the nine-page document that reveals the strategy prosecutors have adopted:

“This is not the first time Anthony Cafaro or other members of the Enterprise [have] made clandestine payments and the State will seek to offer and introduce other acts evidence.” (A Google search for “other acts evidence” provides a clear definition of the legal concept.)

Why would prosecutors include that sentence in a document that lays out what Flora Cafaro did to conceal a $15,000 transaction involving Atty. Yavorcik?

To let the defendants know that their attempt to turn this case into a discussion about the purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place will not succeed.

Special prosecutors Dennis P. Will, Paul Nick, David Muhek and Anthony Cillo are taking the government/political corruption route.

Fair game

But if the defendants insist on putting Oakhill Renaissance on trial, then Garland Plaza, starting with the lease agreement between the Cafaro Co. and Mahoning County, becomes fair game.

While Anthony Cafaro has contended in the past that there was nothing unusual about the lease — the landlord was only responsible for maintaining the building’s superstructure — the idea of taxpayer dollars being used to pay for the upkeep and repairs of a privately owned building does give pause.


1davidjohn(144 comments)posted 4 years, 12 months ago

oakhill should be on trial

this white elephant is bleeding the county

by the way who negotiated the garland lease for the county

the cafaros didnt force the county to sign a lease

did the prosecutor give his ok to sign such a lopsided lease

and wasnt the lease month to month for the last few years

why didnt the county move before

and why did they pick a decrepit 90 year old hospital

there is lots of building space downtown

or build a new building like children services

now they cant fund the jail

or fix the courthouse

or fund other county offices

oakhill should be on trial so the likes of traficanti and tablack never receive a public check again

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 12 months ago

david john makes some good points. However, the only place WORSE than Oakhill is/was and always will be Garland Plaza. the key to this entire case is how far back the offense will go to show that the Cafaro crime syndicate has been bribing public officials to keep Garland plaza a money train for Anthony, JJ and Flora. Is it fair to state that Carney, Palermo, Reese, Lordi, Engler, Sherlock and the other county commissioners ( and others) played with Belmont Ave like McNally, Scortino and Reardon? I think so.

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3escapee(43 comments)posted 4 years, 12 months ago

ODJFS did not use its federal, state and local funding for the protection and mission of enhancing families and children - but used it to create wealth for the CAFARO family.


And all the public officials that have used federal monies to benefit the Caforo's and their friends, rather than families and children, need to be stopped.

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4wksb50(32 comments)posted 4 years, 11 months ago

all oakhill has done is suck the county dry. odjfs had money before this move, but now there have been many layoffs in the county and at welfare department who help the poor. Please tell me where the money has gone! Other counties do not have this constant layoff mode......wake up citizens. it is not the employees of the county, they work very hard for you, so who could it be?

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