There was a noticeable difference in Attorney General Mike DeWine’s demeanor and attitude from May 2014, when he announced the indictments in the Oakhill Renaissance corruption case, to last month, when he met with The Vindicator’s editorial board.
Last year, there was fire in DeWine’s eyes as he talked about the government corruption in the Mahoning Valley after the criminal indictment of Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, ex Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino and Youngstown Atty. Martin Yavorcik was returned by a grand jury in Cleveland. The trio faces a slew of criminal charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, conspiracy, bribery, perjury and money laundering, and are to go on trial in March in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
DeWine, a former county prosecutor, said during a news conference announcing the indictments that it’s always a “sad day” when officeholders are caught up in a criminal investigation.
Given that the 67-page, 83-count criminal indictment pointed to “Businessman 1” as orchestrating the conspiracy to prevent Mahoning County commissioners from buying Oakhill Renaissance Place, this writer took a leap of faith and contended in a column that the attorney general had set his sights on the ultimate prize: Anthony M. Cafaro Sr., the retired president of Youngstown-based Cafaro Co., one of the nation’s leading shopping- center developers.
The Cafaro Co.-owned Garland Plaza on Youngstown’s East Side had housed the Mahoning County Job and Family Services agency for almost two decades. County government made it clear that if the purchase of Oakhill Renaissance (the former Southside Medical Center) went through, it would move the JFS out of Garland Plaza.
Hence, the conclusion that Cafaro is “Businessman 1” in the indictment, which portrays him as orchestrating the conspiracy to kill the Oakhill Renaissance project.
Prosecutors have not publicly identified Cafaro as “Businessman 1,” but all signs point to him.
During the May 2014 press conference, DeWine was adamant that there would be no stone unturned in the case and that the charges against former county commissioner McNally, Sciortino and Yavorcik were the opening salvo.
That was then.
Last week, it was a subdued attorney general refusing to talk about the Oakhill Renaissance case in specific terms, which is understandable, but also unwilling to give a straight answer on the issue of the statute of limitations as it applies to some of the potential targets.
Asked if he was personally keeping an eye on the clock, DeWine said that wasn’t his role. He said the prosecutors from his office who are assisting Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty are responsible for such aspects of the case.
The explanation did not satisfy this writer, who, as the editorial page editor of The Vindicator, pointed out that this newspaper and honest residents of the Valley would not take kindly to key players in the conspiracy spitting the legal hook because the statute of limitation had expired.
Attorney General DeWine seemed taken aback with the admittedly veiled warning, but he responded that in cases such as this one, the goal must be to go after government officials who have violated the public trust.
To which this writer responded: If there weren’t influential individuals in the community eager to bribe government officials, there wouldn’t be public corruption.