Make 2014 the year to end probes

“U are obsessed”

The text came in at 8:51 a.m. Sunday in reaction to the year-end column about former Mahoning County Treasurer and soon-to-be-federal inmate Lisa Antonini, who has joined a long line of corrupt government officials in the Mahoning Valley. The column raised several key questions about the information Antonini may have shared with the FBI and United States Attorney’s Office in Cleveland in order to receive a short prison sentence.

Given that Antonini pleaded guilty to taking a $3,000 bribe from prominent Valley businessman Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., this writer wondered if the former county treasurer and former chairwoman of the county Democratic Party had given up the retired president of the Cafaro Co. to the feds.

The texter, who shall remain anonymous (he is an apologist for Democratic officeholders), used the word “obsessed” because numerous columns were written in 2013 about the willingness of elected officials to sell their political souls for so many pieces of gold.

This writer’s response to the text follows:

“Just so I understand: I should forget about government corruption and the fact that we have elected officials who have no qualms about selling their positions. I will give serious consideration to writing a column praising bribery of officeholders.”

To which the texter replied:

“OMG. That’s not what I said and u know it.”

This year

It’s a good thing David — oops, no names — isn’t advocating a free pass for officeholders in this region (most of whom are Democrats) who have violated the public’s trust. Why? Because this is the year the feds should end the various investigations they’ve been conducting for some time.

However, given that FBI agents and U.S. assistant attorneys don’t even have to acknowledge that they’re looking into wrongdoing by public officials, it’s up to local governments to force the issue.

Here’s how: By adopting resolutions demanding action this year.

Let’s start with Mahoning County government. Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler should pass a resolution urging the feds to either charge county Auditor Michael Sciortino for whatever he’s being investigated, or let it be known publicly that he is no longer a person of interest.

You will recall that Sciortino was one of the county officials who was criminally charged by the state of Ohio for his involvement in the so-called Oakhill Renaissance Place scandal.

The charges against Sciortino, Cafaro, then Commissioner and now Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, former county Treasurer John Reardon and former Job and Family Services Director John Zachariah were dropped after the FBI refused to hand over surveillance evidence to the special state prosecutors and defense lawyers.

The audio and video surveillance targeted at least one of the defendants.

Recently, FBI agents met with Scior- tino following his widely publicized drunken-driving stop in which he was given a pass by the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Department. Rather than being taken to jail because he was driving impaired, he was given a ride home by a high-ranking officer in the sheriff’s department.

Dark cloud

It’s not known what the FBI talked to the auditor about, but agents should know they’ve created a dark cloud that now hangs over his head. They owe it to county residents to explain what’s going on.

The commissioners’ resolution should also seek closure on the probe of Probate Judge Mark Belinky’s finances. The IRS is involved, and there are reports that FBI agents have been interviewing individuals in the community about Judge Belinky.

In the city of Youngstown, city council should pass a resolution urging the federal government to conclude its investigation of the city’s housing demolition program and to bring charges against officials, if they are warranted.

Otherwise, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development should publicly state that it has found no wrongdoing.

The resolution should also urge the FBI and the special state prosecutors in the Oakhill Renaissance scandal to publicly state whether the case is still open, or whether Mayor McNally is no longer a person of interest.

An obsession? Hardly.

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