OurTown and OurCounty are going through a corruption scandal virtually identical to the one in Cuyahoga County, Ohio and I felt it instructive to share with you the coverage from Cleveland.com (Moses Cleveland statue, above, from Public Square in Cleveland) the website of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and recap some of the larger themes of this blawg. This post is prompted by the charging of the Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo (who's visage graces every scale and gas pump in that large metropolitan county) as well as the imminent federal prosecution of his political partner a Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora following an endless investigation and revelations of massive corruption that dripped out in the news like Chinese water torture for the citizens of that region of Ohio.
But the Plain Dealer under editor Susan Goldberg and before her, Dough Clifton is a different publication, although it would be nice to see the current journalists look at the role of the paper in the unfolding drama.
prospects of Bill Mason (pic, right), the boy-prosecutor who wanted to be president. The prosecutor ran the Cuyahoga County Democratic party with Russo, Dimora and O'Malley. Thus far nothing suggests that Mason did anything overtly prosecutable, but there can be no doubt that Mason failed to do his job. The Plain Dealer documented Mason's illegal receipt and subsequent refund of political contributions from his employees. Mason, however is Rovian, in the sense that when called out on any deviation he immediately turns it into a public relations virtue by making it look like he's been the reformist all along. So when called on the receipt of campaign funds from employees of the county Mason refunded the money, and claimed to be shocked, like Claude Rains discovering gambling at Rick's in Casablanca. Mason trumpets "reform" while involved in everything that happened. His political allies are going to the federal penitentiary forever for crimes against the Cuyahoga County, on Mason's watch. More will be revealed, I guess.
Caught in the scandal are at least three Judges, Common Pleas Judges: Brigit McCafferty, Steven Terry and Frank Russo's brother Anthony. Simply stated each of these judges accepted help or money from Russo in exchange for rulings, influence, or hiring of Russo or Dimora employment prospects. The FBI has two of the judges on surveillance audio according to media reports, and as I said, we know only a little at this point, but the Cleveland.com coverage hints at widespread corruption. One of the questions I have is whether any of this will impact positively the selection of Judges which are elected in Ohio, usually based on no more than the qualification of a familiar sounding Irish or Italian name. One of the oddities of the current Cuyahoga bench which has 34 (?) full-time judges, was the election of a Judge Nancy Russo, who I've been told was working as an insurance company investigator and not as a lawyer and yet managed to beat a well-regarded (by lawyers who claim to know these things) sitting judge. Judge Russo acquired her last name through a terminated prior marriage to a Russo unrelated to any of the Russos involved in the current scandals. Having said all of that, I understand that Judge Nancy Russo has been a credible addition to the bench serving competently for a number of years. The point is, she was elected on the basis of the possession of a last name now completely corrupted in the eyes of Cuyahoga County voters--maybe she'll changer her name.
For me, reading this coverage causes no end of sadness. As a virtual avatar for OurTown and OurCounty, I think about the lives and careers and potential lost to greed and self-seeking alone. I think about the careers which were thwarted or damaged because these crooks took power and parceled it out to incompetents and thieves. I think about the damage to a beautiful city and region by the political malpractice and arrogance of these so-called public servants. And I am infuriated that the elites enabled and ignored what was happening. I know my friend and fellow-blogger, Gayle has bemoaned the political and civic injuries of Detroit--may we ultimately pray for light from darkness as these regions transform in the wake of their man made disasters. These are municipal tragedies on a grand scale, can there be a new beginning?