Youngstown Vindicator | Justin Wier
Two of the Mahoning Valley’s highest-profile public corruption cases originated with a relatively new investigative team in the state auditor’s office.
Investigations by the auditor’s public integrity assurance team, formed in early 2015, led to the indictments of Youngstown developer Dominic J. Marchionda and former Niles Mayor Ralph Infante.
Auditor Dave Yost said the 26-member team – which consists of auditors, investigators and attorneys – provides a unified approach to the office’s criminal investigations.
Previously the legal, forensic audit and investigation units had operated separately, but Yost said auditors and investigators have different skill sets.
Bob Smith, deputy legal council for the auditor’s office, said the office recognized a need to have both an auditor and investigator on every case.
It has increased the efficiency of its investigations and improved the state’s ability to hold public officials accountable, he said.
“If you don’t have these resources, you may speculate and guess as to whether there is wrongdoing by a public official,” Smith said. “You’re not going to know for sure until you do the investigation – we’ve got that capability.”
Rooting out public corruption is necessary, Yost said, because it has a trickle-down effect. Government provides the framework of a community, and if people can’t trust that, what can they trust?