by Bob Fitrakis
Governor George Voinovich couldn’t “stand the heat,” so “he got out of the kitchen.” The Guv got out of the VP stakes because of the growing contract-steering scandal with links to organized crime figures in Cleveland. One look at Voinovich’s FBI file would’ve had Bob Dole muttering “Bob Dole’s not about these type of people.” Voinovich would not have been able to withstand the national press scrutiny. His former chief of staff, Paul Mifsud, could’ve been mentored by Spiro Agnew-same type of construction kick-back problems.
The national press wouldn’t have muzzled their bloodhounds like the Dispatch is now doing with Bob Ruth. Remember, the Guv’s spokesperson, Mike Dawson, called Mafia associate and loan sharker Carmen Parise a “very, very good friend of the Governor.” Parise was an associate of James T. (Jack White) Licavoli, reputed organized crime boss. The Guv nominated Parise to the Ohio Turnpike Commission, but he withdrew after the Akron Beacon Journal profiled his past.
The Guv then chose Umberto Fedeli. Fedeli would have you believe that he’s a humble civil servant paid $5,000 a year to serve as commission chair where he works 20-30 hours a week and has to put up with nosy reporters. Like the ones at the Plain Dealer who want to know why people getting the construction contracts from the Turnpike Commission are switching their insurance to the Fedeli Group Insurance Company.
Fedeli is the sole owner. S.E. Johnson Companies has received $55.4 million worth of turnpike contracts since January 1995, and has wisely switched their insurance to Fedeli. Can you say quid pro quo? Fedeli is refusing to say who else holds turnpike contracts and buys insurance from him. Just another bad unethical appointment by the governor? No! It’s how the brothers Voinovich (Paul and George) routinely do business in Ohio.
And “Landfill” Lashutka has followed the governor’s lead. Tens of thousands of dollars of illegal and questionable contributions pour into the campaigns of Lashutka and Cindy Lazarus. Then Columbus Service Director Herb Mack signs an illegal $250,000 contract with Mid-American Waste Removal, the source of the illegal funds. Mack resigns. But in June, Lashutka appoints Mack to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). Say you’re Les Wexner and want your own New Albany interchange for say, $300 million. Guess which is the first body you’d visit to get them on board? Mack’s the mayor’s man. He knows how the game is played.
The coverage of Ron Poole’s soliciting-a-prostitute incident also speaks volumes about central Ohio politics. It’s the mayor’s guy-not Judge Deborah O’Neill. Contrast the Poole coverage to the Dispatch’s blatant attempt to use hearsay and gossip to run O’Neill out of local politics. Better yet, ask yourself why, when the name of Judge Steve Hayes-Woody’s boy-appeared on the client list of an exclusive Columbus call girl ring, and he was caught on video pulling into the bordello, was there no call for a hearing on judicial misconduct.
Having been on the campaign trail with O’Neill in 1992, her great sin is obvious. She met with the late J.F. Wolfe, who wanted her to take a dive in the race against former Dispatch reporter Judge David Cain. When she refused to drop out of the race and kicked Cain’s candied behind, her troubles began with the Wolfe Family Newsletter.
The Wolfes immediately had Cain reappointed to an open seat and he never missed a day on the bench. And he brazenly clung to the perks of seniority-check his parking space-despite technically being the newest judge at the time of his appointment. Cain led the charge against O’Neill when she was recently accused of judicial misconduct. There is no level of cover-up and deception the Big D won’t stoop to in protecting their good ol’ boys.
Meanwhile, the ever-pious governor continues to push his blatantly unconstitutional school voucher program. The Voino-voucher plan, dearly beloved by the Dispatch, includes religious schools, in violation of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no laws establishing religion….” The ruling by Franklin County Judge Lisa Sadler, a former Voinovich executive assistant, would be laughable if it wasn’t so ludicrous and pernicious. Remember, Machiavelli advised the Prince not to take religion seriously, but to be the first one out on high Holy Days to worship.
But hey, the Guv is Carmen Parise’s and Umberto Fedeli’s “shepherd … they shall not want.” Alas, let me leave you with the words of the governor’s “very, very good friend” Parise from a taped threat to Teamster driver Jerry Lee Jones. “The day after this [Teamster] fucking election, you motherfucker, nobody is going to bust your fucking head but me, from here down to your prick.. . . . Every time you turn around, I’ll have someone give you a fucking beating. You understand me?” Jones was later assaulted by a co-worker. I understand Parise…and why Voinovich dropped out of the Veep stakes.