Although two prominent officeholders and a Youngstown lawyer are the main characters in Act 1 of the “Oakhill Renaissance Place Conspiracy,” there’s an unidentified villain who already has stolen the show.
In the script (read that, “The Indictment”), he is referred to only as “Businessman 1,” but plow through the 67 pages and you’ll find that without him there would be no conspiracy and, therefore, no play (read that, trial).
So, while Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino and Atty. Martin Yavorcik get ready to defend themselves against the slew of state criminal charges triggered by their roles in “Businessman 1’s” scheme to undermine the county’s purchase of Oak- hill Renaissance Place (the former Southside Medical Center), speculation abounds as to which one will do like a canary and start singing.
Pre-trial hearings have begun in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office leading the prosecution of McNally et al.
Political corruption case
If there is a plea deal, let’s hope that Judge Janet R. Burnside has read the transcript from a political corruption case in Washington, D.C., involving Mayor Vincent C. Gray.
Here’s how the Washington Post reported on the proceedings:
“The federal judge presiding over the case against a D.C. businessman behind an illegal, off-the-books effort for Mayor Vincent C. Gray ordered prosecutors to publicly name the mayor in court, finding that Gray’s campaign was central to the case.
“Gray has not been charged with any crime, and prosecutors told the judge that it would be potentially unfair to name him during the hearing, according to a court order unsealed Monday. The office of U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. wanted to identify Gray only as ‘Mayoral Candidate A,’ according to the opinion.”
The Post story went on to say that U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the government to identify the mayor because he and his campaign were integral to the misconduct that the businessman admitted to in his plea agreement with prosecutors.
“Mr. Gray and his campaign are not extraneous, but ‘necessary, material [and] relevant’” to the businessman’s conspiracy to subvert campaign- finance laws, the judge’s order stated.
The parallels between the Washington, D.C., case and the “Oakhill Renaissance Place Conspiracy” are plain as day.
Here’s what the McNally-Sciortino-Yavorcik indictment said about the mastermind:
“Businessman 1 … was also involved in providing benefit to certain Mahoning County official(s) by being involved in the paying of legal services for such officials or authorizing such payment when such payment was made in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and/or Geauga County, Ohio, for services, advice or research that was done in Cuyahoga County, Geauga County and Mahoning County, Ohio. This person also provided a benefit to Martin Yavorcik from November of 2007 to November of 2008 to run for county prosecutor so that an investigation and/or prosecution involving him and others could be quashed. He also gave John Doe 1 two thousand dollars ($2,000.00) cash in 2008 when John Doe 1 was a candidate for election and did provide Lisa Antonini with three thousand dollars ($3,000.00) in cash in January of 2008.”
The indictment noted that Businessman 1 owned and operated a plaza in Youngstown.
Connect the dots and it’s safe to conclude that the prosecutors are talking about Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., the retired president of the Cafaro Co., which owned Garland Plaza (McGuffey Mall) on the East Side.
The plaza had housed the county’s Job and Family Services agency for decades, but Commissioner Anthony Traficanti and former Commissioner David Ludt wanted to move it out of the rundown facility. They decided the county would buy the former Southside Medical Center and turn it into a government center. McNally, a commissioner at the time, opposed the purchase.
Although all signs point to Cafaro being “Businessman 1”, prosecutors have not confirmed his identity.
They should either indict him and the 19 other members of the criminal enterprise, or Judge Burnside should order the prosecutors to name him in open court.