Democratic gubernatorial nominee is donating the $1,000 contribution from the indicted Youngstown mayor to charity

Published: Sat, May 17, 2014 @ 12:05 a.m.

campaign finances

FitzGerald, Kasich each send troubled contributions to charity

By David Skolnick


Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic nominee for governor, is donating to charity a $1,000 campaign contribution he received Jan. 31 from indicted Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally.

After a Friday inquiry by The Vindicator to the campaign of incumbent Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, about donations he received from outgoing state Rep. Peter Beck of Mason, R-54th, the $1,400 the House member gave to Kasich in 2010 is being donated to charity. Mason faces 69 felony counts, including fraud, theft and perjury.

Also, the Kasich campaign on Friday discovered $1,200 in contributions — all given in 2010 except $50 in March 2013 — from former state Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, a Republican from the Cincinnati area, that will also be given to charity, said Connie Wehrkamp, a Kasich campaign spokeswoman.

Mecklenborg resigned Aug. 2, 2011, about four months after the married father of three was arrested for driving under the influence with a stripper in his car.

“When we were made aware of the donations, we donated the money even though the money has long been spent and the donations were made in the last campaign,” except the $50, Werhkamp said.

She added: “There’s a big difference between contributions made four years ago” compared with accepting money from a person “with a cloud over his head.”

Wehrkamp was referring to McNally’s indictment in July 2010 on charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, perjury, conspiracy and bribery related to his opposition to moving the Mahoning County Department of Job and Family Services. The charges was dismissed a year later — with the provision they could be filed again — because the FBI wouldn’t provide about 2,000 hours of surveillance tapes of at least one of the seven people indicted in the political corruption case being handled by the state.

McNally, a Democrat, was indicted Wednesday — along with county Auditor Michael Sciortino and attorney Martin Yavorcik — by a Cuyahoga County grand jury. McNally is charged with one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, two counts of conspiracy, two counts of bribery, six counts of tampering with records, nine counts of perjury, one count of money laundering, two of telecommunications fraud, two counts of theft in office and nine misdemeanors.

McNally maintains his innocence saying the charges stem from his opposition, when he was a Mahoning County commissioner, to the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place, the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center, and that he did nothing illegal.

“The mayor wasn’t charged, and when he was, we donated the contribution in days and not years,” said Lauren Hitt, FitzGerald’s campaign spokesman. “I have a hard time believing [the Kasich campaign] didn’t know about” the Beck and Mecklenborg contributions until The Vindicator contacted them.

“When [McNally] was indicted, we quickly donated his contribution,” she said.

That $1,000 went to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund that provides support to military personnel wounded or injured in service and their families.

The money given by Beck and Mecklenborg will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio, which provides support and advocates for those affected by serious brain disorders. Kasich donated $22,396 to the organization last year in campaign contributions given by Benjamin Suarez, a businessman accused of illegally giving campaign contributions to other politicians.

The Ohio Republican Party sent an email Friday questioning if FitzGerald would return the money from McNally because he called on Republican officeholders last year to give up campaign contributions from Suarez indicted on conspiracy charges related to other contributions.

FitzGerald planned to donate the money to charity before the Republican email, Hitt said.

Also, FitzGerald faced criticism from Republicans in September 2013 for accepting a $1,000 contribution from someone he nominated to serve on the Cuyahoga County Community Improvement Corp., a volunteer board. The county’s inspector general, appointed by FitzGerald, cleared him of any ethics violation.

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