Civil Rights & Constitutional Law
Former Mahoning County prosecutor reports misconduct; endures retaliation, including defamation
March 21, 2018
Monday, November 1, 2021
Last week, a State Personnel Board of Review (SPBR) hearing conducted by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) over Martin Desmond’s 2017 job termination ended abruptly after Mahoning County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Gains and his office tried to keep information related to alleged criminal activity within the Prosecutor's Office from becoming public.
During the hearing, Senior Assistant Attorney General Daniel Kasaris acknowledged that Desmond reported this misconduct to him in August or September 2016. And Kasaris admitted that he informed Gains in October 2016 about Desmond’s concerns—a fact of which Desmond was unaware until the hearing.
Gains admitted for the first time during the hearing that Desmond's report of criminal activity within the Prosecutor's Office to Kasaris was a motivating reason for Desmond's termination. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Lynette Stratford likewise admitted to it in her testimony.
Before the hearing, Gains never admitted that Desmond's report to the Ohio Attorney General was a basis for his termination. Gains made multiple oral and written statements, at times under oath, throughout the past four-and-a-half years, but this was the first time Gains admitted that Desmond's termination was based on Desmond's report to the Attorney General’s Office.
Based on Gains's admission, Desmond asked for a stay of the proceeding, which was granted, for Desmond to add this newest claim to his whistleblower case and to secure the admission of the evidence that Gains is attempting to keep hidden. Desmond has not yet had the opportunity to cross examine Gains about Gains’s extraordinary confession.
Gains's confession inspired Desmond and his legal team to file an additional whistleblower claim, which they are asking the SPBR to consolidate with the original appeal. The original appeal alleges that Gains fired Desmond over his whistleblower report that then–Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Cantalamessa had violated someone’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination by indicting that individual merely for invoking that privilege.
The 7th District Court of Appeals has already ruled that Desmond is a whistleblower in the original appeal. There is also pending litigation over the retaliatory termination in the Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas.
The misconduct Desmond reported to Kasaris involved alleged violations of state or federal law, rules, regulations, and/or misuse of public resources by two local attorneys and two assistant prosecutors. The cases originated from task-force investigations, of which Desmond was the lead prosecutor. During the hearing, Desmond informed the ALJ that he believed he had proof beyond a reasonable doubt to prove the allegations. In one of the matters, the FBI even approached Desmond to pursue the prosecution.
Desmond alleges that he attempted multiple times in 2016 to meet with Gains to discuss the matters, but Gains failed to meet with Desmond. In one instance, Desmond sent an email to Gains seeking a meeting, to which Gains never responded.
Retaliation for blowing the whistle on such alleged misconduct violates R.C. 124.131.
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