Former mayor of Ravenna to receive sentence today for tax, mail fraud

Rachel Abbey

Former Ravenna mayor Paul Jones will receive his sentence today for failing to report income he received for his family’s business from the city during his time as mayor.

Jones has already pled guilty to these charges, which translate to three counts of tax fraud and five counts of mail fraud in legal terms.

According to a press release made in December 2006 by the U.S. Justice Department, Jones concealed a conflict of interest from Ravenna residents by failing to report income from PJ Jones Lawn Mowing Service on his taxes. Jones, as mayor, had a say in the funding of the city’s Neighborhood Development Services, which hired Jones’ lawn mowing business to work for the city.

The mail fraud charges are related to the conflict of interest created by not listing his involvement with the lawn business in the Ohio Ethics Commission Financial Disclosure Statement, which requires public officials to list all their sources of income.

Messages left for the lawyers of both Jones and the Neighborhood Development Services were not returned.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Ann C. Rowland said Jones accepted a plea bargain in exchange for a sentence recommendation of one year to be served in a federal prison. However, it is only a recommendation, and the actual sentence could vary in terms of time and where the stay will be served.

Jones was also forced to pay the taxes, interest and fees he owed the city – a “sizable amount,” said Ravenna mayor Kevin Poland – before his sentencing today.

While Poland wouldn’t say how much money that equaled, numbers quoted in the Akron News Now and the Record Courier have surpassed $50,000.

Poland, who stepped up from his position as council president in January 2006 to finish Jones’ term as mayor, is running for re-election. As mayor, Poland said he has striven to make Ravenna’s government dealings more transparent.

“I have stressed with the staff that even the appearance of impropriety is too much,” he said.

Jones acted in an “unethical and improper” way, and whatever the judge hands down will be deserved, Poland said.

“There is no room in public office for this kind of behavior,” he said.

Poland said he has known about Jones’ actions for years and was one of the people who helped to bring it to the attention of the authorities.

In a small town such as Ravenna, Poland said, there are always rumors. He and some friends began looking into Jones a while ago, but it took a long time to pull together enough evidence to accuse him of anything.

“It’s been very frustrating,” Poland said.

Jones’ fate should be known by about 11 a.m. today. Rowland said the sentencing, which begins at 10:30 a.m. at the U.S. District Court in Youngstown, should take half an hour at most.

“I’m glad this ordeal will finally be coming to a close, so we can hopefully all move forward,” Poland said.

Contact public affairs reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].