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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?


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