By Peter H. Milliken
Ivan Maldonado, who was acquitted of all charges in the Youngstown State University payroll scandal, said he will try to obtain reinstatement to his university job.
“I look forward to getting back to work. I am hoping to petition for expedited arbitration to get this matter behind me and back to work at Youngstown State,” Maldonado said. “Three years it took to get to this point. ... I was falsely accused of what they were stating I did.”
He thanked his family, friends and neighbors for supporting him “all the way through these very difficult times.”
The university fired him from his job as a university payroll assistant in 2009 because it said his job performance was unsatisfactory.
“YSU still believes that there is just cause to have terminated this employee,” said Ron Cole, director of university communications. “He’s filed a grievance regarding that action, and it is now before an arbitrator, and we will now allow this case to work through that process.”
Maldonado, who was at the university for 24 years, also is a former president of the Association of Classified Employees labor union at YSU.
Maldonado, 44, of Euclid Boulevard, spoke to reporters shortly after visiting Judge Thomas J. Pokorny acquitted him Friday of two counts of falsification and one count each of grand theft, tampering with records, theft in office and theft.
The judge rendered his verdict after a nonjury trial that began Monday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.
Although the prosecution did not have to prove a motive, “The court’s analysis of the evidence has been affected by a degree of absence of motive,” Judge Pokorny said as he rendered his verdict.
During his opening statement, Robert E. Bush Jr., who prosecuted the case, acknowledged that Maldonado did not benefit financially from the crimes he was alleged to have committed but characterized the offenses as “hate crimes” against the university.
Maldonado’s lawyer, J. Gerald Ingram, said the prosecution stemmed from “animosity arising from Mr. Maldonado’s effective representation of his union members.”
Christine Domhoff, a former president of ACE, said after the verdict, “This is a vendetta launched by the administration of YSU. ... They used the legal system to try to break another union president and chief negotiator because they didn’t like the results of a contract that they negotiated.”
Cole’s response was that the criminal case was investigated by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and prosecuted by the county prosecutor’s office.
Ingram said, “The evidence just wasn’t there. It was an extremely complicated case,” to which Ingram said the judge gave “thoughtful analysis” in rendering his verdict.
A grand jury indicted Maldonado on 10 counts of theft, two counts each of falsification and theft in office and one count each of tampering with records and grand theft.
The charges, which spanned the time period from 1998 to 2009, alleged illegal manipulation of tuition remission, a wage garnishment and Ohio Public Employees Retirement System credit.
After the prosecution rested its case Tuesday, Judge Pokorny granted a defense motion to dismiss nine theft counts and one count of theft in office on the grounds that the prosecution’s evidence was insufficient to support them.
That left only the six counts on which the judge acquitted Maldonado.
Maldonado was charged with arranging for his nephew, Anthony, to receive more than $30,000 in unauthorized free tuition to attend YSU over six years by falsely claiming that Anthony was a dependent residing with him.
The defense argued that Anthony actually was a dependent of Ivan and lived with his uncle.
Anthony, 27, of Boardman, who testified for the prosecution in his uncle’s trial, had pleaded guilty earlier to misdemeanor falsification and was placed on four years’ probation and ordered to make restitution.
Ivan Maldonado was charged with manipulating payroll figures to reduce a garnishment for Ron Granger, 47, of Girard, former university payroll manager, from $500 to $121 per pay period.
Granger, who also testified for the prosecution, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of dereliction of duty in December 2010 and was placed on a year’s probation. Granger resigned from his university job.
The last category of charges against Ivan Maldonado said he falsified documents to arrange retirement credit for 10 full-time university employees for earlier part-time employment, for which those employees had waived retirement credit.
None of those 10 people was charged with any crime. The retirement system said it had adjusted their benefits to the correct level.
“We put on the best case we had, and the court made its decision,” Bush said. “The state of Ohio didn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”