Traficant's Secret Office Will Be Made Open To Public

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP) - The congressman who is helping oversee northeast Ohio's unrepresented 17th District said a private office kept by former Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. soon will be open to the public.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, the House Administration Committee chairman, told The (Youngstown) Vindicator for a story published Sunday that the district's newly appointed chief of staff assured him the office in Canfield no longer will be a secret.

The Vindicator first reported last August that the Canfield office was not included on Traficant's Web site, and there is no sign outside to indicate a congressional office. The office's phone number is not listed in the phone book or city directory.

Traficant (pictured, above) used public money to pay for his offices. He opened the Canfield office in August 2000 and paid rent of $1,750 per month.

Traficant's former staff members have run the district's local and Washington offices since the House expelled him July 24 after his April conviction on federal bribery charges. He was sentenced to eight years in prison on Tuesday but plans to appeal.

John Culbertson, who worked in Traficant's Washington, D.C., office investigating allegations of wrongdoing at the Justice Department and other federal agencies, is taking over as chief of staff.

"The member's prerogative on their offices is their prerogative. What the member chose to do with his office is up to him," Culbertson said Monday.

The staff members are supervised by the clerk of the House and the House Administration Committee. The committee has jurisdiction over House members' employees, salaries and travel and has oversight responsibilities regarding campaign finances.

The former congressman's official House Web site directed constituents to district offices in downtown Youngstown, Niles and East Liverpool.

As of Monday, the House clerk had not listed the Canfield office on the ex-congressman's revamped Web site.

Culbertson said Traficant's East Liverpool office will be closed and that the case work from that office will be moved to Canfield.

When a Vindicator reporter and photographer went to the office Friday, congressional staff member Robert Barlow attempted to bar entry but eventually allowed them into the three-room office.

He said he didn't have a key to the locked room once used by Traficant and doesn't know who has it.

"It was his private office," Barlow said. "The downtown office can direct people here. That's been the procedure all along."

Traficant, 61, was convicted of bribery, racketeering and tax evasion for accepting bribes from businessmen for his help in Washington and taking kickbacks from staff members.

U.S. District Judge Lesley Wells sent him to Summit County Jail to await transfer to a federal prison. He was still there Sunday night.

Traficant intends to run for re-election from prison as an independent in the 17th District. He will run against Democratic state Sen. Tim Ryan, Republican state Rep. Ann Womer Benjamin and independent Warren Davis, a former labor leader.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)