Yavorcik allowed to practice despite suspension

COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court again suspended the law license of Martin Yavorcik, who had eight felony convictions related to the Oakhill Renaissance Place corruption case overturned, but will allow him to keep practicing under specific conditions.

The court ruled 7-0 Tuesday to give Yavorcik a two-year license suspension as the result of a campaign finance law violation from his failed 2008 independent bid for Mahoning County prosecutor and for mishandling client funds.

However, because Yavorcik’s law license was suspended for 32 months on an interim basis before his convictions were overturned, the court agreed that 18 months of the new suspension would be considered as time served for this suspension.

The remaining six months were stayed as long as Yavorcik submits to an Ohio Lawyer’s Assistance Program assessment or one by a chemical-dependency professional within 90 days, complies with any recommendations from the assessment, completes one year of monitored probation focused on law-office management including the management of his client trust account, completes six hours of continuing legal education related to managing a law office and client trust accounts, and does not commit any further misconduct.

The suspension was the result of two issues: making false statements and omissions on his 2008 campaign-finance statements and for neglecting a client by failing to pay the full amount owed from an insurance settlement.

The high court ruled that when running for county prosecutor, Yavorcik received a $15,000 check March 20, 2008, from Flora Cafaro, who has since died, and issued a receipt to her labeled “William M. Cafaro/American Gladiator Fitness Center,” stated it “was for services rendered from Feb. 20, 2008, forward. He deposited that check into his business account and then issued a $15,000 check to Global Strategies Group to pay for (a) poll.”

Yavorcik “misrepresented the source of the $15,000 on the campaign-finance report,” by “falsely (reporting) that he had made an in-kind contribution of $15,000 to his campaign. Yavorcik also failed to report Cafaro’s payment as income on his 2008 federal tax return and to disclose two additional cash contributions on the campaign-finance report that he filed after the general election,” the court decision reads.

The Ohio Elections Commission found Yavorcik’s conduct was a campaign-finance violation and fined him $200.

The other matter involved a man hiring Yavorcik in 2013 to pursue a personal-injury claim on behalf of himself and his minor son who were injured in an auto accident. The client agreed to settle his son’s claim for $10,000 with the insurer, sending a check for that amount to Yavorcik in September 2015 and Yavorcik depositing it into his client trust fund.

Yavorcik never submitted the payment to probate court for approval and it was only after the client filed a grievance against him that Yavorcik paid him $10,931 in April 2018, the court decision states.

Yavorcik admitted he failed to keep his client informed about the status of the legal issues, didn’t follow rules for retaining funds in a client trust account as well as failed to carry adequate professional liability insurance, according to the court decision.

Yavorcik’s law license was suspended after he was found guilty March 25, 2016, of eight felonies: one count each of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy and tampering with records, two counts of money laundering and three counts of bribery. Judge Janet Burnside of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court sentenced him to five years’ probation, including the first year on house arrest.

Prosecutors said Yavorcik joined the Oakhill conspiracy in 2008 when he ran for prosecutor with the expectation that if he won, he would stop a criminal investigation into blocking the county’s purchase of the former Southside Medical Center.

John A. McNally, a former county commissioner and Youngstown mayor, and ex-county Auditor Michael Sciortino, both Democrats, took plea deals and were convicted in the Oakhill case. Authorities said while McNally was commissioner, he and Sciortino received help from developer Anthony Cafaro Sr., and Flora’s brother, in his fight with other county officials to block the county Department of Job and Family Services move from the Cafaro Company-owned Garland Plaza to Oakhill, which the county bought in 2007.

Cafaro was not charged.

The Cleveland-based 8th District Court of Appeals vacated Yavorcik’s conviction May 10, 2018, writing in a 3-0 decision that Cuyahoga County was the wrong place to have Yavorcik’s trial because he didn’t commit any crimes there.

The Ohio Supreme Court decided Aug. 29, 2018, in a 4-2 decision it wouldn’t take up an appeal from the Ohio attorney general and Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

The high court indefinitely suspended the law license of Sciortino on Dec. 13, 2018. His license was on interim suspension since April 11, 2016.

The court on Sept. 18, 2018, suspended McNally’s law license for a year with six months of it stayed, and then reinstated it in April 2019.