Ravenna: New Charges Filed Against Embattled Former Mayor

RAVENNA, Ohio (AP) - A former state representative and Ravenna mayor sentenced to federal prison for not paying taxes on income from a private business now faces state charges over the same matter.

Paul H. Jones, 56, was charged Thursday in Portage County Common Pleas Court with having an unlawful interest in a public contract, filing false state tax returns and filing a false financial disclosure statement.

Jones was sentenced last Friday in U.S. District Court in Youngstown to 16 months in prison. He pleaded guilty in January to five mail fraud charges and three of filing false tax returns.

Those charges alleged he failed to pay taxes dating back to 2001 on income from his son's landscaping business, P.J. Jones Lawn Mowing Service. He also was accused of failing to disclose his interest in the business on state ethics forms.

The mowing service, which Jones operated, contracted out mowing and snowplowing services to a local nonprofit affordable housing organization that managed money and projects for the city while Jones was mayor. Jones was a board member for the group.

Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said the state charges were filed after a review of evidence that federal prosecutors turned over in October.

Jones is to be arraigned April 9. His lawyer, John McCaffrey, said the state charges weren't necessary.

"This is pure political piling on by the prosecutor," he said. "The man (will be) serving a 16-month federal sentence in a Bureau of Prisons facility in Florida, and I question whether this is a prudent expenditure of taxpayer money to go through this exercise."

Vigluicci said possible violations of state law couldn't be ignored.

Jones was 24 in 1975 when first elected mayor of Ravenna, about 35 miles southeast of Cleveland. The Democrat was elected to his first term in the Ohio House in 1982 and lost a bid for re-election to a seventh term in 1994. He returned to the Ravenna mayor's post by winning election the following year.

Jones resigned as mayor at the end of 2005 and relocated to Bradenton, Fla.