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The more things change ...



Published: Fri, May 20, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

With the resignation of Lisa Antonini as Mahoning County treasurer because of a federal criminal charge and pending conviction, the county Democratic Party needs to fill that vacancy with a qualified and stable replacement.

You don't need financial experience to be county treasurer, but with the Antonini scandal, the party should appoint the best candidate.

Among the three who've already applied, Kenneth A. Carano is the favorite.

He is a former state representative and official in the ex-Gov. Ted Strickland administration. Carano is also the party's executive vice chairman, its parliamentarian, and elections committee chairman as well as someone trusted by many precinct committee members.

Carano’s decision will probably scare off other candidates and with his political connections, Carano will likely win.

Interestingly, Antonini was appointed treasurer by Democratic precinct committee members in 2007 largely because of her political connections. She was the party’s chairwoman at the time, and ran unopposed.

Antonini had experience in the office, serving as chief deputy treasurer. Though, in hindsight, that didn’t work out.

Lisa Antonini, disgraced ex-Mahoning County treasurer and chairwoman of the county’s Democratic Party, is “sincerely sorry for having let so many people down.”

It doesn’t matter whether Antonini is sincere or is only sorry because she got busted. She has brought more embarrassment to an area that is seen as a haven for political corruption.

It’s not perception, folks. It’s reality, and it’s likely to get worse.

Wait for the Oakhill corruption case to get going. We’ll likely hear plenty more about political corruption in the county, and how those with money don’t just buy things, they buy people.

This area’s long history of political corruption hasn’t changed. It’s not in the past or behind us. It’s still here. Only the names are different.

Antonini was charged with taking and failing to report a $3,000 cash contribution during her primary for county treasurer in 2008.

Federal prosecutors kindly provided a road map allowing us to figure out who gave her the money.

Prosecutors gave the date of when Antonini received the illegal contribution and that the unidentified local businessman who gave her the $3,000 also wrote her campaign a $200 check the same day.

“In exchange, Antonini continued to support the businessman’s interests and understood she would take official action on his behalf if opportunities arose,” prosecutors wrote in a bill of information released Monday.

To no one’s surprise, that person is Anthony Cafaro Sr., a once-prominent businessman who faces a laundry list of charges in the Oakhill case accusing him of bribing current and former county officeholders.

Cafaro’s brother, J.J. is a two-time convicted felon, and his sister, Flora, is accused of money laundering.

As for Antonini, it’s hard to believe she threw away a comfortable political career for $3,000.

Her finance reports show she raised more than $75,000 in legitimate contributions for her 2008 campaign. Antonini’s annual salary as treasurer was $68,275.

Because she’s cooperating with the feds, Antonini only has to plead guilty to one felony count for illegally taking $3,000.

She’ll avoid prison time and probably pay a modest fine. The only good that can comes from this is if Antonini can provide prosecutors with enough information to convict others of being dirty.

Unfortunately, that will probably only slow down the corruption in this area for a while.

While some local Democrats are trying to excuse away Antonini’s loathsome behavior, county Republicans aren’t holding back their criticism.

One email I received came from James Shaw, director of political affairs for the county’s Young Republicans.

“The Democrats have had their turn. Now it’s [the Republicans’] turn,” he naively wrote.

You don’t get turns in politics.

You seize opportunities, something Mahoning County Republicans have repeatedly failed to do.


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