Acting Mahoning County prosecutor sworn in
YOUNGSTOWN — Gina DeGenova, who becomes acting Mahoning County prosecutor today to replace 26-year elected prosecutor Paul Gains, said Wednesday her goal is to “ensure that services are not interrupted to the public.”
She took the oath of office in the Mahoning County Common Pleas courtroom of Judge Anthony D’Apolito. Her mother, Gloria Tedesco, and husband, Steve Zawrotuk, stood with her. The ceremony was attended by Gains and many employees of the prosecutor’s office and others.
“I would not look for any changes, and business as usual from our office,” she said.
DeGenova takes over at least until the Mahoning County Democratic Party meets in early January to decide who will serve as ≠≠county prosecutor for the final two years of Gains’ unexpired term, which runs until the end of 2024.
DeGenova, a 17-year employee of the prosecutor’s office, joined Lynette Stratford as chief assistant prosecutor about 18 months ago and has also served as public information officer during that time.
She takes over for a county prosecutor with a storied history that includes having been shot by an intruder working for mobster Lennie Strollo in Gains’ home on Christmas Eve 1996 in a failed attempt to prevent Gains from taking office.
As Gains announced his retirement Nov. 18 at the prosecutor’s office, he talked about the shooting, saying, “The attempt on my life was due to my refusal to accept bribes from organized crime.”
When DeGenova was asked about Youngstown’s history with corruption and how she will address such issues, she said, “Paul Gains cleaned up, and his hard work over the last 25 years, I would say, you’ve … got to be strong, you’ve got to be honest. You have to have integrity, and you’ve got to do the right thing.”
She said, “There’s people I’m sure down the road who will try to infiltrate that, but you have to stay true to yourself, and that is what I intend to do.”
Gains also said later the corruption influences “are down considerably from what it was. First off, that element has no influence in the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office, and I expect that to continue, assuming that attorney DeGenova receives the Democratic Party vote and is appointed by the Democratic Party.”
Gains called DeGenova “an excellent attorney,” noting he, DeGenova and Stratford were the team that tried the case involving the lawsuit filed by the Cafaro Co.-owned Ohio Valley Mall against county for purchasing the former Southside Medical Center to house its county Department of Job and Family Services.
The county won the suit that also led to an investigation of several officials’ roles in in opposing the purchase of the former hospital, now known as the county’s Oakhill office building on Oak Hill Avenue.
The investigation led to the convictions of two prominent elected official — former Youngstown mayor and former county commissioner John A. McNally and former county Auditor Michael Sciortino, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, according to The Vindicator archives.
When asked if DeGenova can be tough enough to stand up to the strain of battling corruption, Gains said, “Look at me. I’m a stuffed pepper. The fact of the matter is it just takes the intestinal fortitude to say no. And that’s what I did when they approached me. And of course you know what happened,” he said of being targeted.
“She’s not going to take any undue influence. She’s going to do her job and she’s going to follow her oath of office to the letter. She’s honest. Integrity is the most important attribute a prosecutor can have, and she’s got it,” he said.