LORAIN — A drunken city councilman on the prowl was caught Friday night in a prostitution sting, Lorain police said.
Dennis Flores, D-2nd Ward, was charged with solicitation and DUI at 11:27 p.m., after driving up to a decoy prostitute near the corner of Reid Avenue and 18th Street; he was charged by Lorain and Elyria police, a report said.
The 54-year-old councilman, who defeated Brian Hazelett in November 2007 to win his seat, is chairman of the city’s Finance and Claims Committee and vice-chair of the Police and Fire Committee.
Police said he had condoms in his car and alcohol on his breath. Flores’ car was towed, and he was taken to the city jail.
“He is so sorry for what he did. He’s promised to seek help,” Council President Anne Molnar said. “He said he knows he did wrong.”
Molnar said she spent about 30 minutes on the phone with Flores after his arrest. She said he’s been depressed over a break-up with a girlfriend for about two months.
“We’re all human. Dennis is basically a very good person. He would give the shirt off his back to you,” Molnar said. “We should help him. You don’t kick a man while he’s down.”
She said there’s no rule on the books saying a council member charged with a misdemeanor must be censured or forced to resign.
But if Flores is convicted of solicitation, there could be tremendous political pressure for him to give up his seat, Lorain Democratic Party Chair Tony Giardini said.
“Nobody is perfect, and everybody has issues, but when you’re a public official — like it or not — you’re going to be held to a higher standard,” Giardini said. “You can’t have councilpeople behaving that way.”
He said the arrest could also cause constituents to lose faith in Flores’ ability to make moral decisions.
Even though it’s a misdemeanor, from the public’s perspective it’s much more serious, he said.
Ohioans are very sensitive about the conduct of elected officials since the resignation of former state Rep. Matthew Barrett and former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, Giardini said.
Mayor Tony Krasienko agreed, worrying that Flores’ arrest is one more blow to the city’s credibility.
This year alone, there have been probes into the conduct of Chief Building Official Bill Desvari and Lorain police officers Stanley Marrero, Corey Earl, Jack Brown, Thomas Toothman and Jesus Sanchez.
“I have the same mindset as Governor Strickland took with the attorney general. Once the public trust is eroded, it’s too hard to replace that,” Krasienko said. “Hopefully, Councilman Flores will make the right decision about what to do now. It’s unfortunate because this is going to overshadow the good he’s done in the community.”
So far, Giardini and Krasienko said, nobody is calling for Flores to resign. Flores did not return calls to his home Saturday seeking comment.
Flores was not the only one charged Friday in the prostitution sting. Also facing solicitation charges are Javier Hernandez, Milan Komadina, Justin Hoag and Frank Delmonico, all of Lorain, and David Gunter of Sheffield Lake.
In a prepared statement, Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera said prostitution is often thought of as a “victimless crime,” but the reality is that many prostitutes end up the victims of violent physical crimes.
The johns who hire them often become victims of theft and armed robberies, he said.
To report prostitution or other vice crimes, call the Lorain police narcotics division at 204-2108.
Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.