Public corruption in Valley is still on the state’s radar

After Ralph Infante, the disgraced former mayor of Niles, was sent off to state prison for 10 years following his conviction on a variety of criminal charges, we wondered whether the state’s commitment to cleaning up public corruption in the Mahoning Valley would wane.

We’re no longer wondering. Indeed, we’re looking forward to another headline-grabbing case unfolding in a court of law in the not too distant future.

Like Infante, who used his public position for personal gain, Valley developer Dominic Marchionda used government to enrich himself, state prosecutors allege.

And like Infante, Marchionda is facing a slew of criminal charges.

The former mayor of Niles, one of the most prominent Democratic politicians in this region, was convicted by a jury on 22 criminal charges stemming from his long tenure in office.

Visiting Judge Patricia Cosgrove threw the book at him with the 10-year prison sentence.

The outcome of the case was a victory for Special Prosecutor Dan Kasaris of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, members of Ohio Auditor David Yost’s Public Integrity Unit, the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and the Youngstown office of the FBI.

Yost’s uncompromising stance on public corruption bodes well for the Marchionda investigation and for other cases in which individuals inside and outside government have crossed over to the dark side.

As Yost told The Vindicator, which provided extensive coverage of the Infante case, “Our work is not complete in the Mahoning Valley.”

The next order of business for the Yost juggernaut is the trial of developer Marchionda, who was indicted in October by a Mahoning County grand jury on 101 criminal counts. The charges are related to development projects the owner of NYO Property Group launched in downtown Youngstown. Government dollars were used in some of the projects.

Starring role

Marchionda, who had a starring role in the grand opening of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Youngstown, is alleged in the indictment to have given a $25,000 bribe to former city Finance Director David Bozanich.

Bozanich has not been charged, but there are rumblings he will be indicted after a superseding indictment is filed against Marchionda.

Bozanich is no longer with Youngs-town city government and has denied any wrongdoing.

Marchionda, who has given up management of his company, is facing charges ranging from engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity to money laundering to aggravated theft.

Yost is aware that this newspaper has been unwavering in its demand that the crackdown on public corruption must target both government officials and individuals who bribe them with money and other items of value.

We have long rejected the idea embraced by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican nominee for governor, that the main goal is to rid government of corrupt public officials.

That cockeyed view of such white-collar crimes was evident when the attorney general gave prominent Valley businessman Anthony M. Cafaro Sr. a pass in the Oakhill Renaissance Place criminal enterprise.

State prosecutors identified Cafaro, retired president of the Cafaro Co., as the mastermind of the criminal enterprise, but DeWine chose not to go after him.

The state’s chief law-enforcement officer obviously believed the convictions of former Youngstown Mayor John A. McNally, whose involvement in the Oakhill scandal stemmed from his tenure as a Mahoning County commissioner, former county Auditor Michael Sciortino, and Youngstown Atty. Michael Yavorcik would appease honest Valley residents. He was wrong.

As we’ve argued ad nauseam in this space, there wouldn’t be public corruption if there weren’t officeholders and others in government eager to be corrupted, and well-heeled individuals in the community willing to corrupt them.

We’ve also insisted there can be no sacred cows when it comes to cleaning up the corruption that has undermined the Valley’s economic revival.

We, therefore, caution Ohio Auditor Yost, state prosecutors and investigators not to be swayed by some in the community who view Dominic Marchionda as the savior of downtown Youngstown.

The 101-count indictment lays out a pattern of behavior that certainly does not justify putting him on a pedestal.

Marchionda had his moment in the spotlight during the grand opening of the hotel. Now, the light of justice must shine on his alleged crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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