No investigation by prosecutor into Leone campaign finance claims
By Graig Graziosi
After examining a pair of affidavits accusing the Dominic Leone campaign for Struthers Municipal Court Judge of wrongdoing, the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s office has decided not to pursue further investigation into the matter.
Prosecutor Paul Gains said there is not enough evidence to warrant a further look into the claims. “It’s all he-said, she-said. There was insufficient evidence for us to consider launching an investigation,” Gains said.
In addition to the prosecutor’s office choosing not to follow up on the affidavits, Joyce Kale-Pesta, Mahoning County Board of Elections director, reviewed the Leone campaign’s finances and found no evidence of wrongdoing.
“All the campaign finance reports are accurate and up to date, and everything is accounted for,” she said. “The finances were fine and that’s the part of the affidavit we were concerned about.”
Two of Leone’s ex-girlfriends – who also worked on his campaign – submitted affidavits to the board of elections alleging that Leone had taken campaign contributions in excess of the state cap of $600 and that they witnessed Leone smoking marijuana.
Mark Munroe, chairman of the Mahoning County Board of Elections and the Mahoning County Republican Party, said he wished the prosecutor’s office had launched a follow-up investigation.
“I’m disappointed the women who filed the affidavits weren’t interviewed. I think it took a lot of courage on the part of these women to come forward,” he said. “It’s not clear to me why an investigation hasn’t been done.”
He said the issue may be revisited when the board of elections meets in early November. The board could collectively decide to ask the Mahoning County Sheriff’s office to investigate the matter.
In response to the affidavits filed by the women, Leone released a statement denying their claims. In addition to the statement, Leone also took a drug test the day he learned about the claims that he was witnessed smoking marijuana, and released the results, which showed there were no drugs in his system at the time of the test.
Though Leone believes his opponent Damian DeGenova is behind most of the allegations raised against him, DeGenova has mostly remained quiet.
“Prior to the affidavits being filed I had no idea who either of the women were,” DeGenova said. “One of them commented on my Face- book page and I replied to her, but that is the extent of my interaction with them.”