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Oakhill haunts McNally



Published: Sun, May 12, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


Regardless of how you cut it, John A. McNally IV’s 150-vote margin of victory in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for Youngstown mayor was an embarrassment. McNally, the endorsed Democratic Party candidate and former Mahoning County commissioner, should have rolled over the other credible contender in the race, city council President Jamael Tito Brown.

Not only did McNally have a huge advantage monetarily — as of mid-April he had raised $107,953 to Brown’s $30,277 — but he had a proven track record as a campaigner.

McNally, who had served as law director for the city, won the Democratic nomination in the 2004 primary for commissioner with 50 percent of the vote. He defeated a well-known Democrat, Atty. Mark Belinky, and Beth Stanko.

He won re-election in 2008, which was after he had voted against the relocation of the county Job and Family Services agency from the Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza to the county-owned Oakhill Renaissance Place (formerly South Side Medical Center), but before criminal charges were filed against him and others.

Racketeering

The charges, triggered by the so-called Oakhill Renaissance controversy, included racketeering and bribery.

They were filed by the state after a two-year review of boxes of documents and investigations by various law enforcement agencies.

In addition to McNally, the defendants included Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., former president of the Cafaro Co., and county Auditor Michael Sciortino.

However, the charges were dropped by the state after the federal government refused to hand over the results of 2,000 hours of FBI surveillance of Cafaro and others involved in the Oakhill scandal.

The special state prosecutors reserved the right to file charges at a later date.

And that became an issue in Tuesday’s primary contest between McNally and Brown.

The former county commissioner was given the opportunity on several occasions to demonstrate to voters that he understands the frustration of area residents with the never-ending incidents of government corruption.

McNally was asked the following question by this writer twice, once during a debate sponsored by the 7th Ward citizens group and then during his appearance on Vindy radio, which is streamed live on The Vindicator’s website, www.vindy.com.

“If charges are refiled against you by the state or the federal governments, will you give up your campaign for mayor, or if you are the mayor, will you step down?”

McNally answered thus: “No and no.”

That was a mistake.

The Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate was surprisingly tone deaf about the public’s response to the Oakhill scandal. Many honest, hardworking residents find power-broker politics abhorrent.

It is this writer’s belief that had McNally said publicly he would step aside if charges were refiled, his margin of victory Tuesday would have been much larger than 150 votes.

The outcome of the primary election appears to have shaken the county Democratic Party. Consider this statement from Chairman David Betras when the results were announced:

“MCDP [Mahoning County Democratic Party] is prepared to devote ‘considerable’ resources to its standard-bearer’s general election campaign.

John ran an exemplary race and his victory is well-deserved. He stayed positive throughout the contest, assembled a broad-based coalition of supporters ... .”

“Considerable resources?” What does Betras call $107.953 McNally had in mid-April?

“Broad-based coalition of supporters?”

McNally received 3,292 votes, while Brown garnered 3,142.

Challengers

Although there isn’t a Republican candidate, the nominee will face several challengers who are running as independents, including DeMaine Kitchen, chief of staff/secretary to Mayor Charles Sammarone, and former police Chief Jimmy Hughes. Kitchen and Hughes are black.

Chairman Betras will be put to the test because there already is talk about persuading one of the two leading challengers to drop out. If both stay in, McNally will have the advantage.


Comments

11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Until the feds either drop the charges against or sentence Antonini something is still going on with Oak Hill.

It sure has dragged on for a long time though. It has gotten to the point where feds need to do something. Either indict people, or make announcement saying that it is done similar to what they did for Ed Fitzgerald in Cleveland when his name came up in corruption investigation.

And good job Bertram for continuing to ask questions about this.

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2greevey(23 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Seriously, Betram? After a city of 66,000 people only cast a total of 6,500 votes the Vindicator's political columnist focuses on Oakhill? Hey Brown, Franko, Sweetwood, et al., when are you guys going to hire someone that can intelligently analyze local and state politics instead of use your paper to fulfill personal vendettas? He states, "Many honest, hardworking residents find power-broker politics abhorrent." Wow, isn't that the "pot calling the kettle black"? Betram (and his simple minded minion Flick) use the Vindy as their sword to attack anyone and everyone that doesn't subscribe to his misinformed conspiracy theories. The real story from this week's election is that Youngstown's citizenry are empathetic and divided by race. Will someone at the Vindy raise the bar when it comes to journalism. Betram's weekly rants do not encourage constructive dialog about Valley politics; his skills could be better utilized at a gossip outlet like TMZ.com or The National Inquirer.

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3greevey(23 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Sorry for typo....apathetic, not empathetic.

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4Outkst(1 comment)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

I have a good idea. Sit down with Traficanti and Tablack and write a information piece on how much Mahoning County residents have paid and are still paying on the building. Then figure out how you can get some people to rent space in the building after the City Health Dept. pulls the plug?

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5TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Okay now, Greevey nicely done. Anyone with an idea as to politics within this Valley, as you said certainly not simple-minded Flick, would see that low turn-out and racial lines decided this election. NOONE cares about Oakhill except obsessed Bertram and Flick. If they did they would be showing OUTRAGE at its cost to the residents of this County. Actually though Bertram had decided to start writing news stories over the last couple weeks that actually were timely and interesting. No such luck, he has fallen into a horrible Oakhill relapse. Bertram you really don't think that you influence anyone regarding elections? The endorsement of your paper hasn't mattered for a long time. How many people do you actually think saw the 7th ward debate -maybe 100. Flick name for name. Again, so far the record supports me Flichard. No indictments, no Grand Jury, No fed charges just speculation, conspiracies and your rants-when you gonna apologize and admit that when you see McNally you beg him for a job. You're not one of the Lydens who did everything but mow McNally's lawn to get Booby hired at the County and then ran his wife against him are you? That dude got fired in shame. Hey youre more honorable than that right? Name for Name Flick even give you my email.

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6Alexinytown(246 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Did anyone here even care to read the bill of particulars? No wonder they didn't pursue the charges because they were a joke! The bigger waste of taxpayer dollars was the money spent putting together that Mickey Mouse list of charges against McNally and Sciortino--the Feds might as well call themselves Stretch Armstrong because every one of those charges at best were a major stretch.

I'd tell you not to quit your day job Bertram, writing this kind of drivel, but seeing as how it IS your day job, you might want to consider quitting and signing up for unemployment to spare the rest of us from losing any additional brain cells by reading your columns.

At the end of the day, an indictment is not a conviction, and to date there has been zero evidence of wrongdoing of any kind by McNally.

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7Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

First off,

ALL OF YOU UNEDUCATED PHILOSOPHICAL AND OPINIONATED FOOLS NEED TO GET OFF BERTRAMS ASS!!!

Secondly,

Thank you sir for another great column. It indeed is needed to be reminded of the evil that permeates our community.

McNally should NEVER have made it this far. Seemingly, Mr. De Souza, only you and I understand that trash belongs at the curb.

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8TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

stick to FACTS Flitchard/AskmeifIcare: NOTHING personal. Why is the tremendous cost of that building not an issue? That's the only concern that is unsaid, unnoticed. FACTS: Every one of the counts in the state case was dismissed at THE REQUEST OF THE PROSECUTION. Doesn't take a legal genius and no philosophical judgment to see that means there was no case. If the State never had enough evidence without tapes, how did they indict? Flick I don't care who you are because I am sure you re a nobody, I am just showing how you hide out criticizing others without proof and then go beg McNally for work. NOTHING you claim has been substantiated in any way. Flick, you think Oakhill was a good idea? Seriously, just use facts and tell me why. NOONE who has to work their likes the place. Everyone is afraid to say anything because for years corrupt Tablack would fire you or then and now corrupt Gains will indict you. The old, falling down building continues to suck dollars out of a poor county and made no sense. What amount of money is too much: 10 million, 20, 30? That's what those opposed said and the facts show they were right. The indictment was pulled because it wasn't worth the paper it was written on and that is a fact supported by the dismissal. Shouldn't need tapes of Feds to prove a state case. Nothing more than the power of the prosecutors office wrongly being used to hurt political enemies. Askmeif Icare? You seem to care about Bertram-you feel he's an objective journalist? Never one question about the staggering cost of Oakhill.

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9TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Hey ASKMEIFICARE! Do you remember how hard you were on Anthony Catale when he was charged with DUI? You stated that because he was in a position of trust it was about his character. Well your boy Bertram has a few of those charges floating around out there. You feel he should keep his judgments to himself because of his weak character- same thing right?

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101970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

1. I liked the idea of county moving out of the old JFS building. It was a wreck and bad lease for county. I still think it was good idea to leave.

2. I thought Oak Hill was good idea because it would be cheaper and put old building to good use. I now think the costs of redoing that building are way more than the whole effort was worth.

3. I thought it was ok MCNally opposed the purchase and ok he was talking to Cafaros .Keeping an open line of communication is usually a good thing.

4. McNally deservs credit for his efforts to at keeping Oak Hill costs in line and not trying to prevent any improvements there.

5. County should have built a brand new building downtown with new Youngstown courthouse instead of Oak Hill.

6. I don't think McNally was taking bags of cash from cafaros, but some of his actions may have crossed the line. Unfortunately, only a trial will settle that.

7. Charges were not dropped "because there was no case." Charges were dropped because feds refused to hand over evidence to state. Defendants are entitled to that evidence to have a trial and because they could not provide that evidence, they dropped the charges. Those charges CAN be refiled though.

8. I read the bill of particulars and found the charges to be at times confusing, but I would like to have explantions from people charged.

9. If there is a trial I don't think anyone involved on either side will turn out looking good.

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11TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

The charges were dropped because there was no case. The state never had the wiretaps. Ever. So how were indictments even handed down without this crucial piece of evidence that the grand jury never had. If the entire case was based upon those tapes and they were so intricate to its successful prosecution that they could not go forth how then was the indictment created without them. The case should not have been built on evidence that was never available. Plain and simple the State knew it was going to be whipped with or without the tapes. Why were they all of a sudden the crux of the case when they were never heard before.

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121970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

It is very simple: the defendants were ENTITLED to those tapes for their defense and w/o them the state could not move forward.

The State of Ohio could not produce them because the feds have them, and the feds do NOT have to give them over. (The feds would not and have not said why)

The state dismissed the charges because that was the ONLY outcome that could happen at that time .The court would have dismissed the case w/o the defendants getting the tapes so there was no point in waiting for that to happen.

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13Nom_De_Plume(54 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

1970mach1, you are generally on the mark but not on your last post. The defense is entitled to all evidence in possession of the State when dealing with state prosecutions. The State is not charged with the knowledge of information in possession of the federal government and is in no way obligated to turn it over. Finally, the State can't be sanctioned with dismissal for not turning something over that it's not obligated to turn over. So, Terripanst gets the nod on that point.

And, anyway, do you honestly believe the Feds weren't fully aware of the details of the Oakhill investigation? Heck, they may have had agents working the case and, if so, they certainly knew of the tapes. If the case was a slam dunk or as heinous as Bert, Gains, Tablack and others would have us believe, the Feds would have taken the case. It's so tainted at this point now that there's not a snowball's chance of that and no other state prosecutor will touch it.

To me, it's no coincidence that the cases were dismissed on the day that the defense was going to argue their motions to dismiss and likely Gains and his ex-girlfriend on the stand. Old Paulie would've gotten butchered. The tapes were a convenient excuse once you know the applicable law.

More to The point of Bert's article, this debacle haunts McNally because Bert can't let it die. His credibility as a writer (what little there is) hangs in the balance on this case. As does Gains'. This case was nothing more than a politically motivated prosecution driven by a prosecutor bent on destroying his political enemies and Bert and the Vindy bought right into it.

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14TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

Nom_de_Plume? agree with every aspect of your Oakhill assessment. Every part of state case was political witch hunt by Gains and Tablack. You can even cite Grand Jury misconduct. Usually its easy to get an indictment in most cases, but this was no slam dunk. In fact Judge Evans inappropriately extended the GJ to comply with prosecutorial wishes when no indictments came down within normal time frame. Such an extension requires the full bench or all Common Pleas Judges approval, but Evans did this without the consent of the other Jurists. Know what happened to the two Judges who criticized this action (Krichbaum and Sweeney)-they were brought before the Grand Jury. UNBELIEVABLE!!! Flick and ASKmeificare-don't care-they don't care about the truth. Never point to facts just kiss Betram's a__, and drink his unobjective reasoning. Again, a good citizen would hope that charges are not brought and support the dismissal to prove our elected officials conducted no wrong-doing. No way with these folks, they salivate at convictions, not knowing any facts and not caring that such issues damage our area. Nutballs, in my opinion, have to say that so they don't get their feelings hurt, crybabies too.

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151970mach1(1005 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

NOM:
1. I'm not a criminal defense atty, and maybe you are and know better about how that process works than I do. However, the news reporting, and yes sometimes reports are incorrect, have stated that the case was dropped because the defendants were denied access to those tapes.
2. I do not know, and I am unsure if it has been reported or divulged, whether those tapes were used as part of the indictments.
3. Many folks here posting about what they feel are the misdeeds of Gains, Tablack, and others. Pesonally, I think a trial would be good in that it would bring so much to light that we don't know about. Whole thing was a mess from start to finish, if it is over.

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16Nom_De_Plume(54 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

MACH1

1. That's what is being reported but that is not accurate. It amounts to a cover story, in my opinion.

2. Tapes were not presented to the grand jury. State investigators did not learn of the existence of the tapes until post-indictment.

3. I stand by my belief that the Oakhill prosecution was politically motivated and pursued mainly by the people mentioned. While trials do have a way of flushing out the truth, mistakes can happen and innocent people can be convicted (just as the guilty can walk free). But, remember this most important legal principle, the state has an ethical obligation not to pursue cases for inappropriate reasons and should err in favor of the rights of the defendant.

P.S.

If you look at the Ohio Supreme Court docket from when Gains was sued by another attorney in the Oakhill case, two things will jump out at you. First, Gains was ordered to turn over records (calendars for his employees) that he previously withheld. Second, Gains' office worked harder than it ever had to quash the deposition of Diane Stokes, a paralegal to Linette Stratford, the chief of the civil division and Gains' former girlfriend. Very few people have seen that transcript but it must have been incredibly damning to Gains and his crew. I have no doubt that Ms. Stokes detailed the level of involvement of Gains' office in the investigation and in bringing about the Oakhill indictment. I can say based on personal knowledge that members of Gains' staff was regularly, if not daily, involved in the Oakhill case pre-indictment and had full access to the records.

Sad thing is, Gains' buddies at Vindy gave him a pass on this just as they do now with all of his buffoonery.

'Nuf said.

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17TERRAPINST(302 comments)posted 1 year, 4 months ago

My friend, your truthful and courageous input is sooo welcome and soooo accurate. What is sad is that many people are aware of these fact, and as you state the Vindicator have continuously showed a lack of objective journalism and have championed the cause of witch-hunt. I really cannot believe the vengeance with which Mr. de Souza have pursued individuals who were wrongly accused. What proves this is the fact that nothing has come of it and will never come of it... So much unethical behavior and not on behalf of the accused- how do the people who trumped up these charges sleep at night considering the hell they put these people and there loved ones through?

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