We’re well aware, based on past experience, that Youngstown mayor John A. McNally and Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino will ignore our call for their resignations in the wake of Wednesday’s criminal indictment against them. But we would be derelict in our duty as government’s watchdog if we ignored the serious nature of the Cuyahoga County grand jury’s action.
McNally and Sciortino will argue that they can effectively meet their responsibilities as elected officials and will not be distracted by the criminal charges brought against them.
We aren’t convinced the public would be served well by two officeholders who, undoubtedly, will be preoccupied with the numerous counts of alleged crimes contained in the indictment.
The specter of spending time behind bars if they’re found guilty can’t be ignored by them or their families.
In addition, the city and county face too many significant challenges for residents to settle for distracted leaders over whom a dark cloud of potential criminality ominously hangs.
This isn’t the first time McNally, former county commissioner, and Sciortino have been indicted. Indeed, criminal charges were filed against them and others stemming from the 2010 indictments. The charges, relating to county government’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place (the former Southside Medical Center) were dismissed as the trial before a Common Pleas Court visiting judge was about to begin in June 2012.
The FBI revealed that one or more of the defendants in the state case were targets of the federal government’s surveillance. FBI agents refused to hand over the results of the 2,000 hours of surveillance, prompting defense lawyers to argue that the refusal prevented them from fully representing their clients. The judge agreed, and the special prosecutors in the case did not object.
The prosecutors made it clear that the Oak-hill case remained open even though the charges had been dismissed.
On Wednesday, during a press conference in Cleveland, Ohio Attorney General Mike De-Wine, serving as a special prosecutor, said the indictment of McNally, Sciortino and Atty. Martin Yavorcik, who ran unsuccessfully for county prosecutor against incumbent Paul Gains, are related to the Oakhill Renaissance Place purchase.
This case was brought by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who asked De-Wine and lawyers on his staff to serve as special prosecutors. There is a Cuyahoga County connection that opened the door for McGinty to take the case to the grand jury.
We are well aware that an indictment isn’t an indication of guilt. Indeed, DeWine, with McGinty by his side, used the word “alleged” numerous times in outlining the 83 counts.
But, regardless of the legal definition, we remain firm in our belief that elected officials under indictment should not continue in office.
DeWine noted that under state law, he is required to ask the Ohio Supreme Court to appoint a commission to remove Sciortino as auditor on a temporary basis.
The indictment relates to Sciortino πs conduct as auditor. Temporary removal would not bar him from seeking re-election in November. He was unopposed in the May 6 Democratic primary and faces Republican Bill Reese in the November general election.
State law notwithstanding, we are convinced that resignation is the only acceptable move on his part.
McNally is not affected by the state statute dealing with removal from office because his alleged crimes occurred during his tenure as county commissioner.
Nonetheless, McNally, who has been mayor since Jan. 1, should resign for the good of the city of Youngstown.
There’s a dark cloud hanging over the heads of the two officeholders, which is why their departure is in the best interest of the city, the county and the region.
While the indictment lays out the 83 counts against McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik, it is also couched in secrecy with regard to others who are implicated in the Oakhill Renaissance scandal.
We urge Attorney General DeWine, who has earned the Valley’s appreciation for not allowing this important case to die on the legal vine, to quickly file charges against other suspects.