The Youngstown Vindicator | Bertram de Souza
It wasn’t happenstance that the first person charged in the state’s investigation of several downtown Youngstown development projects was a prominent businessman.
Ohio Auditor David Yost, whose office is leading the probe into the use of public dollars, wanted to deliver an unequivocal message to honest taxpayers who justifiably think that the rich and politically influential in this region are untouchable when it comes to public corruption.
During a recent meeting with The Vindicator Editorial Board, Yost, who is running for Ohio attorney general next year, was asked if he believes tainted government officials and those who taint them are equally guilty.
“The question answers itself based on the facts” of the downtown investigation, the former county prosecutor and journalist replied.
“We started with the guy who had the cash. We did not start with the corrupt public official. … The first indictment was a private businessman.”
And not just any private businessman.
Prominent developer Dominic Marchionda was indicted in October by a Mahoning County grand jury on 105 criminal counts relating to development projects he has launched in downtown Youngstown.
The Poland resident, who owns NYO Property Group, is alleged in the indictment to have given a $25,000 bribe to city Finance Director David Bozanich to secure government financing.
Bozanich has not been charged, but an indictment is imminent. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Lawyers from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office are prosecuting the case, but it’s Yost who’s calling the shots.
The state auditor’s decision to go after Marchionda first is important for several reasons, foremost of which is his deep-seated belief that there are no sacred cows when it comes to public corruption.