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2013 leaves questions unanswered



Published: Sun, December 29, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


In a continuing nod to the Mahoning Valley’s tradition of political corruption, another former government official will become a guest of the United States Bureau of Prisons. Lisa Antonini, who served as Mahoning County treasurer (a job for which she had no discernible qualifications) from March 2007 to May 2011, will report Jan. 7 to the federal prison camp for women in Alderson, W. Va., to begin serving a five-month sentence.

Antonini, who pleaded guilty to accepting a $3,000 bribe from prominent businessman Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. with the promise to support his interests and take action on his behalf, will be on two years’ supervised release after prison. The first five months will consist of electronically monitored house arrest.

U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi, who treated Antonini leniently after prosecutors said she had been quite cooperative in the ongoing investigation of government corruption in the Valley, ordered her to pay a $2,000 fine and to perform 150 hours of community service while under supervision.

Questions

But as 2013 comes to a close, the big questions that have yet to be answered publicly are these:

1. Did Antonini give up Cafaro, retired president of the Cafaro Co.?

2. Did she identify other individuals in and out of the government who have contributed to the corruption of government?

3. Did Antonini, as chairwoman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party, continue the long practice of selling public jobs for so many pieces of silver?

4. Although she was not charged in the so-called Oakhill Renaissance Place scandal, what information does she have about the activities of current and former county officials who did end up facing state criminal charges?

5. Did she facilitate meetings between county officials involved in the Oakhill scandal and Cafaro, who was seeking to stop the county commissioners from buying the former South Side Medical Center?

6. Will she agree to a jailhouse interview with this writer (who has only her best interest at heart)?

As she sits behind bars, Antonini will undoubtedly contemplate her fall from grace. She threw away a $68,275-a-year job for a $3,000 bribe.

But before she dons a hair shirt, she might find solace in the fact that all of the officeholders who went before her to prison or jail also sold their souls for peanuts.

It’s a commentary on the mentality of our public officials that their loyalty can be bought for such embarrassingly paltry sums of money.

That prompts other questions left unanswered from 2013.

Given that Antonini has cooperated with the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland on their government corruption investigations, when will the public be told what information she provided?

Cynics will undoubtedly say never, based on the FBI’s refusal to share the results of its audio and visual surveillance of some of the defendants in the Oakhill Renaissance scandal, including that of Cafaro Sr.

The 2,000 hours of recordings were the reason the state’s special prosecutors dropped the criminal conspiracy charges in the Oakhill case. The charges can be refiled. However, the state won’t act until the feds release the surveillance evidence to them.

List of defendants

In addition to Cafaro, the other defendants were county Auditor Michael Sciortino, former county Commissioner and Youngstown Mayor-elect John A. McNally, former county Treasurer John Reardon and former county facilities director John Zachariah.

Although McNally won this year’s mayoral race, the criminal charges were a reason for his razor-thin win in the Democratic primary over council President Jamael Tito Brown.

Sciortino’s problems were exacerbated this year when he was given a pass on a drunken-driving charge. An investigation by the Summit County Sheriff’s Department found that Sciortino “failed miserably” a field-sobriety test. But a high-ranking member of the Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene of the traffic stop and took Sciortino home.

Questions abound about this incident, especially in light of the fact that FBI agents had a conversation with Sciortino after the drunken-driving incident.

Is it possible that the feds, aware of Sciortino’s history as a public official, wanted to know if any powerful Valley resident had interceded on his behalf?


Comments

1Roger_Thornhill(572 comments)posted 9 months, 4 weeks ago

The Energizer Bertram.

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2questionreality(296 comments)posted 9 months, 4 weeks ago

If these questions are answered: 1. Will I still have to pay my property tax? 2. Will the county still attempt to increase our sales tax? 3. Will it tell us what this is about - 50 2013 TL 02630 OHIO DEPT OF TAXATION VS lbf? 4. Will life for the average citizen change in any way?

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3author50(1121 comments)posted 9 months, 4 weeks ago

@ question reality - good one(s). Can't wait to see what Terrapin Street says about this column!!!

Hey Bert, my sources tell me that the $3,000.00 donation to Ms. Antonini DIDN'T come from Mr. Cafaro and if you and your paper did some real investigating reporting you might find out that it came from an official who was really doing business with the treasurer's office from the tax lien sales. Henceforth, Mr. Cafaro is in the clear. This door opened up the can of worms about Mr. Reardon scamming the state Democratic Party out of $100,000.00 and reached Mr. Cordray.

Ms. Antonini does not deserve jail time for not reporting a lousy three grand while such things go on as:

1) Mayor Sammarone gets his son $20,000 - $40,000 in tax payers money to open up two bars and none of the money has been repaid.

2) The hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money given to George Lenehan and Jacob Harver for five different locations that have not been repaid.

3) The EPA mandate to repair the crumbling water and sewer system is ignored by council and the last three administrations and the 40% water surcharge is funding everything but what it was intended to.

4) The Covelli Centre debt.

5) That's enough, too many items to list.

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4greevey(23 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The Real Unanswered Questions of 2013:

#5. Will Vindy & Betram ever 'enlighten' the readers with the facts surrounding the true Oakhill scandal - the fleecing of the county tax payers of $20+ million and growing. Trafficanti, Ludt, & Tablack along with their accomplices (Gains and his buddies at the FBI) orchestrated an NSA-like abuse of governmental powers. This building now has the potential to bankrupt the county sucking more and more tax dollars down the drain just as Sciortino and McNally predicted, but were prosecuted for.

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5greevey(23 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The Real Unanswered Questions of 2013:

#4. When will the Brown family finally fold up the Vindy and cut its losses? Newspaper is a dead medium. WFMJ still has a few good years left until local TV faces the same fate. Save your money now!

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6greevey(23 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The Real Unanswered Questions of 2013:

#3. Why has the Vindy narrowed its focus when reporting local news. Youngstown is 34 square miles, yet most of its positive articles are focused exclusively on the downtown. With an ever shrinking readership, wouldn't it make sense to report on a few of the positives throughout the rest of the Valley? After all, only a few hundred people actually live downtown.

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7greevey(23 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The Real Unanswered Questions of 2013:

#2. With drug related crime plaguing all sides of the city and leaching into the suburbs, why haven't leaders from Trumbull and Mahoning Counties (including city & township mayors and trustees) come together on a regional basis to combat this issue and pool crime fighting resources? Will anyone have the guts in 2014 or will parochial politics continue to stymie this region for another decade or two?

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8greevey(23 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The Real Unanswered Questions of 2013:

#1. Except for a handful of vocal but simple minded haters, no one else in the Valley really cares about Betram's weekly rants - especially when the topics are nothing more than regurgitation of the same three or four topics. He 'bet the farm' on some colossal corruption scandal which never materialized. His writings are creatively impotent as is his credibility. You have to wonder if he will even have a job in 2014????

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9Roger_Thornhill(572 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

*Court documents are clear that the person who gave Antonini the $3k also made a reported campaign donation same date ($200 IIRC). Cafaro is only one who fits that profile.

*Feds don't usually sentence people who they are going to use at a trial for someone else until after they testify because they lose the hammer over them. With Antonini having been sentenced, seems pretty unlikely feds plan on using her in any trials. And that means McNally and Sciortino are off the hook.

*Just because McNally was right about Oak Hill being a money pit and bad idea doesn't mean he did not do anything wrong in the way he went about his opposition.

*I don't buy the claim that charges were filed against all of these people in Oak Hill fiasco as a political vendetta. The people who filed the charges were not from around here.

*Pretty unimpressed with the way Gains conducted his part of the investigation.

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10escapee(43 comments)posted 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I thought 2013 answered the questions. The FBI isn't going to do anything in Ohio, including Steubenville. It is up to the Corrupt locals.

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