Debate goes on in Oakhill complaint

By Peter H. Milliken


The debate continues on the status of a deposition given by a Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office paralegal in a public-records complaint related to the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal- conspiracy case.

Lawyers for former Cafaro Co. president Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., the Cafaro Co. and two of its affiliates want the Ohio Supreme Court to compel the court reporter and videographer to release the transcript and DVD of paralegal Diane Stokes’ deposition, which they paid for, to their law offices.

The Cafaro lawyers say Stokes’ sworn testimony “reveals a concerted effort” by the county prosecutor’s office staff “to conceal public records.”

Prosecutor Paul J. Gains asked the top court to suppress and seal Stokes’ April 7 deposition, saying the court granted Gains’ request to quash the subpoena that commanded Stokes to appear for the deposition.

Supreme Court records show it granted Gains’ motion to quash at 4:45 p.m. April 7, almost three hours after Stokes’ five-hour deposition had ended.

The high court hasn’t ruled on the Cafaro and Gains motions, and Atty. John McCaffrey, who filed the records complaint, said Friday he hasn’t received either the transcript or the DVD.

Stokes testified she created work-related documents last year, which are stored outside the prosecutor’s office, and that she used and stored documents on computers that don’t belong to that office, the Cafaro lawyers said.

Stokes also admitted she communicated work-related matters with Linette Stratford, chief of Gains’ civil division, and people outside the prosecutor’s office using email accounts other than public-agency email addresses, according to an affidavit by Lisa M. Ghannoum, a Cleveland-based lawyer for the Cafaro interests.

The Cafaro lawyers say the court reporter and videographer are willing to deliver the transcript and DVD if the court orders them to do so.

The court reporter and videographer took that position because Stratford told them they’d be violating a court order if they released the transcript and DVD, the Cafaro lawyers said in their motion to compel.

A trial is set to begin Sept. 6 in the criminal case in which five people and three companies are charged with conspiring to impede the move of the county’s Department of Job and Family Services from Cafaro Co.-owned rented quarters to the county- owned Oakhill Renaissance Place.

Charged in the conspiracy are Cafaro, the Cafaro Co. and two of its affiliates; County Commissioner John A. McNally IV; County Auditor Michael V. Sciortino; former county Treasurer John B. Reardon; and former county JFS Director John Zachariah.

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

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