Did panel decide to suspend Sciortino?

By David Skolnick



A panel considering the suspension of indicted Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino has made a preliminary determination on the matter.

The decision isn’t being made public in compliance with state law, but based on the process, it’s quite likely the panel’s preliminary determination was to suspend Sciortino.

The state law that has a commission of three retired judges to decide whether to suspend, with pay, public officeholders charged with job-related felonies doesn’t permit the commission or the Ohio Supreme Court — its chief justice selects the panel members — to comment on these investigations until a final decision is made.

Bret Crow, a Supreme Court spokesman, declined to comment Friday.

John Juhasz, Sciortino’s attorney, couldn’t be reached Friday by The Vindicator to comment. He said two weeks ago: “My hope would be that the constitutional presumption of innocence would enter into the process.”

Sciortino, a Democrat, faces 16 felony counts and six misdemeanor counts — including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, perjury, money laundering and tampering with records — for alleged political corruption in his capacity as county auditor.

The law on this closed-door process requires the commission to make a preliminary decision on suspension no later than 14 days after the appointments of the members. The appointments were made June 13 with Friday being the 14th day.

If the panel had decided not to suspend Sciortino, an announcement would have been made no later than Friday stating that and that the investigation had concluded.

If the preliminary decision was to suspend Sciortino, he has up to 14 days to contest it. If Sciortino appeals the initial decision, the commission is required to hold a closed-door hearing with him no later than 14 days after his request to allow him to present his arguments for not being suspended. At the conclusion of that meeting, the commission makes a final decision and issues a written report.

It is only at that point that “the records of the special commission” are “made available to the public for inspection,” according to the state law.

If each action is done on the last day under the statute, that final hearing and the commission’s decision would be July 25.

Sciortino, who is paid $89,109 annually as auditor, would continue to be paid if suspended. He could be sued by the county to recover money paid to him while suspended if he is convicted. Sciortino is running for re-election in November.

If the panel suspends Sciortino, the county Democratic Party would select his replacement.

Along with Sciortino, Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally and attorney Martin Yavorcik, a failed 2008 county prosecutor candidate who ran as an independent, were indicted May 14 in Cuyahoga County on 83 total political corruption charges alleging they were a part of a conspiracy to impede the move of the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services from the then-Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza on Youngstown’s East Side to Oakhill Renaissance Place.

Oakhill is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center, which the county bought in federal bankruptcy court in 2006 and to which JFS moved in 2007.

McNally, a Democrat, cannot be removed as mayor under state law because he is accused of committing these acts during his time as county commissioner. McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik maintain their innocence.

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