Wednesday, October 11, 2017
RELATED: • Downtown developer's trial set to start Dec. 11
• Mayoral candidates discuss many issues, including Bozanich
By David Skolnick
City council members say it’s premature to discuss potential disciplinary action against Finance Director David Bozanich for his potential involvement related to a 105-count indictment of downtown property developer Dominic Marchionda and his affiliated businesses.
Bozanich hasn’t been charged with any crimes in the investigation. Most council members declined to discuss what should be done if the finance director is indicted.
“It’s more prudent to wait and see an indictment and what would be in an indictment,” said Councilman T.J. Rodgers, D-2nd. “You can’t discipline someone for being under investigation. I’d like to see what comes of this investigation before a decision is made.”
Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th, said, “It would be premature to discipline someone or ask them to resign until it can be shown he has direct involvement in this unfortunate circumstance. If he is officially indicted, council should come together and decide if he should be asked [by the mayor] to be disciplined.”
An Oct. 2 indictment of Marchionda alleges an unnamed city official helped the developer in exchange for a $25,000 bribe in spring 2009.
A source with knowledge of the investigation said the city official is Bozanich and that authorities are investigating him for a possible indictment.
Bozanich said after the Marchionda indictment was unsealed: “I’ve done nothing wrong and time will tell.”
Marchionda and five companies he runs face charges including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, money laundering, aggravated theft, tampering with records, telecommunications fraud and receiving stolen property.
In a Sunday column, Bertram de Souza, The Vindicator’s editorial page editor, wrote that while council cannot discipline Bozanich – that is up to Mayor John A. McNally, who has said he has no plans to do so – its members should take a vote of no confidence against the finance director.
Responding to the column, state Auditor Dave Yost – whose office and the attorney general led the Marchionda investigation, which is still ongoing – said in a prepared statement: “Mr. Bozanich has not been charged, but a prudent city council would be asking questions about his conduct of city business, and would err on the side of protecting taxpayers.”
The Vindicator requested Yost comment further Tuesday. An auditor spokesman said Yost couldn’t “because the matter is part of an ongoing investigation.”
Councilwoman Lauren McNally, D-5th, said of Yost’s comment: “That seems like a pretty politically charged statement. The auditor’s office could have come to us with a statement rather than put it out there for publicity.”
Lauren McNally said she wants “the investigation to play out before making a determination on what to do with” Bozanich.
Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, said: “This indictment is deeply disturbing. There is a negative perception out there for the city.”
When asked if Bozanich should be disciplined if indicted, Ray said, “We’d have to evaluate that information when it’s available and talk with the administration and the law department. We understand the serious nature of the allegations.”
Anita Davis, D-6th, was the only member of city council to say that if Bozanich is indicted for something he allegedly did related to his job, it “should be a fireable offense.”
She added: “If an indictment were to come down, all city employees have the same level of accountability. I’m concerned about the city’s reputation. None of this is good for Youngstown.”
Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st, said the city shouldn’t take any action against Bozanich unless he’s convicted of a crime.
“We don’t want to throw a key player [in the city’s progress] under the bus until he’s found guilty of something,” Oliver said. “Anyone can get indicted [for] anything.”
Oliver pointed to himself as an example. Oliver was indicted in 2010 on charges of receiving stolen property and carrying a concealed weapon. He was found guilty two years later of an “unclassified misdemeanor” and fined $250.
“I spent two years and $10,000 fighting it and [was convicted] because people were after me,” Oliver said. “Even if [Bozanich is] indicted, you have to prove he committed the crimes. The decision may be he’s innocent. He’s pushing the city forward. This man has done a great job for the city. It’s just speculation now.”
Councilman Nate Pinkard, D-3rd, said: “Bozanich hasn’t even been indicted yet. Once he’s indicted, I’ll take another look at it. Right now, it’s just an accusation.”
When asked about the investigation, Pinkard said, “I thought we’d been making good progress as a city. No one likes to see this. In most cases in government, until a person is indicted or found guilty, there’s not a lot we can do. At this point, I have no reason to doubt” Bozanich’s statement that he’s innocent.
The indictment accuses Marchionda, 58, of Poland, of misusing money obtained from the city as well as state and federal governments for the Flats at Wick student housing complex and projects to turn Erie Terminal Place and Wick Towers into downtown apartments. He is accused of improperly spending at least $600,000 from city funds on personal items.
The crimes are alleged in the indictment to have occurred between May 1, 2009, and Jan. 1, 2016.