Youngstown City Prosecutor Jay Macejko has been around politics long enough to know that his decision to challenge Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains next year has prompted cynics to wonder if this is a replay of the 2008 race.
Then, Atty. Martin Yavorcik ran as an independent against Gains and raked in $120,000 from members of the Cafaro family: $40,000 each from Anthony M. Sr., retired president of the Cafaro Co.; John J., retired vice president; and Flora, an officer with the shopping center development firm.
The reason for the Cafaros’ support of Yavorcik was clear from the outset: They wanted to punish Gains for his role in the legal battles that surrounded the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former South Side Medical Center.
The purchase resulted in the Cafaro Co. losing a lucrative lease when the county Job and Family Services agency was moved out of its Garland Plaza on the East Side.
But despite their significant financial support for Yavorcik’s candidacy, Gains steamrollered his opponent. The prosecutor’s continued presence in the county courthouse must feel like an in-grown toe nail, especially to Anthony and Flora Cafaro, who until recently were defendants in a state criminal case, along with Yavorcik, county Commissioner John A. McNally IV, county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former Treasurer John Reardon and former JFS Director John Zachariah.
Special prosecutors dropped the charges — they can refile them at a later date — because the FBI and federal prosecutors in Cleveland weren’t willing to share evidence accumulated from wiretaps and other surveillance of some of the defendants in the state case.
Given what’s at stake regarding the politics of Mahoning County, city Prosecutor Macejko must publicly answer the following questions:
Have you had any social or business dealings with Anthony, John J. and/or Flora Cafaro, or with any other executives of the Cafaro Co.? If so, what was the nature of the dealings?
Given that the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland have 2,000 hours of tapes from the surveillance, can you say unequivocally that your name will not appear on any related list? If it turns out that you were recorded in conversations or appear on videotape with any of the Cafaros or company executives, will you withdraw from the race next year and resign your position as city prosecutor?
If you are successful in ousting Gains, would you endorse the criminal conspiracy case against the defendants and would you cooperate with the FBI and federal prosecutors in their investigation of government corruption in Mahoning County?
While the criminal aspect of the so-called Oakhill Renaissance scandal is up in the air, what is clear is that one prominent businessman, Anthony Cafaro, had unprecedented access to government officials, including former Treasurer Lisa Antonini, who has pleaded guilty to a federal criminal charge. Do you believe it is proper for anyone to tell an officeholder to jump, and the officeholder replies, “How high?”
Since the county prosecutor is the lawyer for county government, would you advise your clients that clandestine meetings with special interests undermine good government and, therefore, should be avoided at all costs?
In announcing your candidacy, you said you planned to restore integrity, trust and honesty in the prosecutor’s office, which, you said, is “severely lacking.” Do you have proof of illegal activities on the part of Paul Gains or any of his staff? If you have such proof, have you taken it to the FBI or the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland? If you haven’t turned over such evidence, why not? Is it not your obligation as an officer of the court to seek the removal of corrupt officeholders?
If your allegations of a lack of integrity, trust and honesty are merely designed to grab headlines, does that not speak to your own integrity, trust and honesty?
Given the history of Mahoning Valley politics, voters have a right to know everything about the candidates for one of the most important offices in county government. Jay Macejko can expect to be closely scrutinized — just as Gains has been for the past 15 years.