Court: Cafaro can’t have all records

By Peter H. Milliken


The Ohio Supreme Court has unanimously ruled a lawyer for the Cafaro interests in the dismissed Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal conspiracy case is entitled to only part of what he asked for in a public-records request.

The lawyer, John F. McCaffrey of Cleveland, made the request of Paul J. Gains, Mahoning County prosecutor.

Exactly two years after McCaffrey filed his mandamus lawsuit, the justices in Columbus ruled Thursday he is entitled to work-related entries on the calendars of Gains and his assistant prosecutors, Linette Stratford and Gina Bricker, between Nov. 1, 2008, and July 2010.

The top court said many of the items McCaffrey requested were exempt from disclosure or don’t exist.

“We think there’s some information there that might be enlightening about the prosecutors’ activity,” said Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for the Cafaro Co.

Bell added that company officials were glad McCaffrey could get some of the information he wanted but disappointed he couldn’t get it all.

McCaffrey represented Cafaro Co. affiliates, The Ohio Valley Mall Co. and The Marion Plaza Inc., in the Oakhill criminal case, which state special prosecutors dismissed in July 2011 because they were unable to obtain tapes from the FBI to be shared with the defense in a pretrial evidence exchange.

In the dismissed Oakhill criminal case, the Cafaro interests and two current and two former Mahoning County officials were charged with conspiring to impede the move of the county’s Department of Job and Family Services from rented quarters in OVM’s Garland Plaza on Youngs-town’s East Side to the county-owned Oakhill.

JFS made the move in July 2007.

The top court ruled the sealed records McCaffrey sought “have everything to do with the criminal cases and nothing to do with McCaffrey’s assertions of prosecutorial misconduct.”

Gains may keep the records sealed because they are trial-preparation records, which are exempt from disclosure in a criminal case that still could be re-filed, the justices ruled.

In court documents, Cafaro lawyers accused Gains and his staff of improperly serving as witnesses, advisers and investigators for the grand jury, which issued the 73-count indictment in July 2010.

Gains said in 2010 he gave McCaffrey more than 8,000 pages, including everything Gains believed was subject to disclosure under the state’s open- records law.

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