Chamber Out as Reviewer of State Capital Funds

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The six members of the delegation from the Mahoning Valley to Columbus have rescinded their letter of Nov. 10 naming the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber as a clearinghouse for Ohio capital bill projects.

State Sens. Joe Schiavoni and Capri Cafaro and state Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan, John Boccieri, Sean O’Brien and Michael O’Brien today said they wrote the chamber and leaders of the economic development and arts and entertainment communities of their rescission upon learning that “the chamber had reportedly been soliciting various entities to retain them on a fee-for-service basis to advocate for capital bill requests.”

The delegation, all Democrats, nformed Tom Humphries, president and CEO of the Chamber, and Guy Coviello, its vice president for government affairs and media, that they want “to avoid even the mere appearance of impropriety” and this compelled them to ask the chamber to provide them with the names of all the entities they solicited.

When the delegation chose the chamber to act as a clearinghouse and recommend funding priorities, the state legislators said, they were “unaware” the chamber had been asking fees of the groups.

No one at the chamber was immediately available for comment.

Calls to the chamber seeking comment were not returned as of this posting.

The delegation has sent letters to the leaders of the cultural, arts and entertainment groups advising them to bypass the chamber and send their funding request directly to them.

In their letter to Humphries and Coviello, Schiavoni and his fellow legislators wrote, “Our decision will in no way impact our long-standing commitment to pursuing, in the fairest and most transparent manner possible, capital funding for community development, artistic and cultural projects that will enhance the quality of life in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.”

Schiavoni, D-33, is the senate minority leader and lives in Boardman. Cafaro, D-32, lives in Hubbard Township.

Lepore-Hagan, D-58, lives in Youngstown, Boccieri, D-59, in Poland. Sean O’Brien, D-63, and Michael O’Brien, D-64, live in Trumbull County.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.