David Yost's record fighting Valley corruption gives him edge in AG race

At the conclusion of Steve Dettelbach’s hourlong endorsement interview with The Vindicator, a member of the Editorial Board made this notation on the survey form submitted by the Democratic nominee for Ohio attorney general: “He has set the bar high for Yost.”

Thus, when Dave Yost, the Republican nominee for AG and currently state auditor, sat down with Vindicator editors and writers, the following question loomed:

Will he clear the bar set by Dettelbach, former United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio? He did – simply by making mention of four names: Infante,

Bozanich, Sammarone and Marchionda.

The four individuals represent Yost’s unwavering commitment to blowing the lid off public corruption in the

Mahoning Valley.

As a result of the auditor’s Public

Integrity Unit delving into the operation of Niles city government, Ralph Infante, former longtime mayor and political powerhouse in Trumbull County, is now serving a 10-year prison sentence. Infante was convicted by a jury on 22 criminal charges stemming from his long tenure in office.

In a nutshell, Infante used his public position for personal gain.

But it’s Auditor Yost’s decision to go after David Bozanich, former long-time finance director for the city of Youngstown; Charles Sammarone, former mayor of Youngstown, and developer Dominic Marchionda, who has been involved in several major projects in downtown Youngstown, that sealed the deal when it came to our endorsement.

Any major developments in the state’s cases against the trio won’t occur until next year, which means the state’s chief lawyer will have a lot to say about how the prosecution should be handled.

A 101-count indictment alleges that Bozanich, Sammarone and Marchionda were players in elaborate public-corruption schemes. The allegations run the gamut, from bribery and kickbacks, to freebies, to the misuse of public dollars to the financing of high-flying lifestyles.

But the charges against Bozanich are of particular concern because of his 20-year-plus tenure as city government’s wheeler and dealer.

State and local investigators have spent an inordinate amount of time connecting the dots because there are so many other players, in addition to the three who have been indicted.

The complicated nature of the scheme requires an attorney general who is

familiar with all aspects of the case.

Public corruption has been a millstone around the Valley’s neck, and what the region needs is a lawman who will not succumb to political pressure or roll over for the rich and mighty.

This is not to suggest that Dettelbach would be soft on crime or would not be as aggressive as Yost in going after corrupt government officials and individuals who would use their wealth and prominence to corrupt them.

Defining moment

As we said at the outset, we were

impressed with the former U.S. attorney, but we believe that the Bozanich-Sammarone-Marchionda public-corruption scheme could be a defining moment in the Valley’s history. Decades ago, it was the federal government that came down hard on the Mafia, thus breaking its stranglehold on local governments and illegal activities.

As a result, more than 70 officeholders, including judges, a prosecutor and a sheriff, other public officials and mobsters were convicted.

Organized crime in the Valley is largely a memory today.

We do acknowledge that our support for Yost is tempered by his less-than-aggressive stance against the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow online charter school that bilked the state of many millions of dollars.

Dettelbach has accused his opponent of joining other Republicans in state government in giving the owners of ECOT a pass until revelations of wrongdoing could no longer be ignored.

We have harshly criticized the GOP for its unholy alliance with the charter-school industry, and we’ve demanded aggressive legal action against those who have misused taxpayer dollars.

We expect Yost as the attorney general to take the lead cracking down on the charter-school industry.

But from our vantage point, Yost’s commitment to clean up public corruption in the Valley makes him worthy of our endorsement.

Editor’s Note: Details of the candidates’ positions on a range of issues can be found in Vindicator news stories, videos of Editorial Board interviews posted on vindy.com and by accessing the candidate surveys on the website.