Will AG DeWine take action?

An open letter to Ohio Attorney General (and former county prosecutor) Mike DeWine.

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

Dare it be said? Mahoning County needs “DeWine intervention” (Come on, it’s Easter). Seriously, though, it has been about nine months since the state was forced to drop criminal charges against several public officials and a prominent businessman because the federal government refused to hand over the results of 2,000 hours of wiretaps and other audio and visual surveillance. The feds have acknowledged that their investigation intersects with the state’s probe of government corruption in Mahoning County.

There were unconfirmed reports of a federal grand jury in Cleveland preparing indictments to be handed down this month. But we enter April with no action on the part of the U.S. attorney’s office.

Hence, this letter to you.

As Ohio’s top lawyer — and a former county prosecutor with an impressive record of convictions — your involvement in this case is essential.

The state criminal charges were not dropped because the special prosecutors concluded that they had a weak case. They were forced to throw in the towel because the feds revealed the existence of the surveillance and refused to turn over what they had to defense lawyers.

The list

The defendants were: Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co.; former county Commissioner John A. McNally IV; county Auditor Michael Sciortino; former Treasurer John Reardon; and, former director of the Department of Job and Family Services John Zachariah.

It is noteworthy that McNally is running for mayor of Youngstown this year and has been endorsed by the county Democratic Party in the primary.

The state’s case was triggered by the political battle over the relocation of the JFS offices from the Cafaro Co.- owned Garland Plaza to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place (the former South Side Medical Center). Two of the three commissioners voted for the relocation, but McNally joined other county officials in opposition.

It took about two years for the Ohio Ethics Commission to go through all the evidence in the case before deciding that criminal charges, including racketeering, were warranted.

This case demands closure, given the Mahoning Valley’s history of government corruption.

Mr. Attorney General, you are no doubt aware that in the not too distant past 70 officeholders, including a prosecutor, sheriff and judges, were convicted of accepting bribes from mobsters, businessmen and others.

Government corruption is a millstone around the Mahoning Valley’s neck.

It is unfortunate that the U.S. attorney’s office in Cleveland has not gone after the individuals detected in the surveillance. You can right that wrong.

This is not about harassing upstanding citizens of the area, as some apologists for Cafaro et al contend. And it certainly is not about pulling evidence out of thin air. To believe that is to believe two special prosecutors are guilty of prosecutorial misconduct.

Just to be clear, the charges against the county officials and the prominent businessman were not filed on a whim.

Therefore, they should not be dismissed on a whim.

The federal government’s inaction is disappointing, but not surprising. The U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI are not answerable to the public. As a result, they operate in total secrecy.

Public interest

Mr. Attorney General, you have the ability to persuade U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach in Cleveland to turn over the results of the 2,000 hours of surveillance to you. The information is of public interest. Who were the primary and secondary targets? Why was the surveillance launched?

There must be accountability. That’s what the residents of the Mahoning Valley deserve and want. For too long, government in the region has catered to individuals who have not had the best interest of the community at heart.

The time has come to close the book on our sordid history.

Attorney General DeWine, there is another compelling reason for you to evaluate this case: Former Commissioner McNally could well win the mayoral race. It will not serve the city well if he has a dark cloud hanging over his head.

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