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The Feds come calling

Whatever kind of day you had yesterday, it was better than the one Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo had.  Here's a simple tip:  when FBI and IRS agents show up and your office and your home with U-Hauls and start removing files, it's not a Good Thing.

Not that it was unexpected; the guess here is that Dimora, one of the three Cuyahoga County Comissioners, and Russo, the County Auditor, have a good criminal lawyer on their speed dial.  Russo was featured just a month ago in a Plain Dealer article on his office hiring practices, which consisted of hiring every politically-connected person in the city and giving them a sinecure and job title of "office assistant."  (The Auditor's Office here has more than three times the number employees as Hamilton County's, which of course includes Cincinnati.)  As for Dimora, who despite his status as part of a troika is unquestionably the top Democrat in town, there have been numerous rumors of sweetheart deals that he's made with contractors in return for campaign support. 

But the more conspiratorial-minded might note that local paper's coverage of the County's blossoming corruption probe crowded out a story from Washington:  an investigation of the Justice Department had confirmed the charges that the Justice Department had been politicized over the past several years.  While the investigation concerned only hiring practices, there's other evidence to suggest that decisions to prosecute were similarly politicized.  Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin office worker, was convicted of theft in office just before the election in 2004, and the Republicans used the conviction in ads against Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.  The case was so thin that the court of appeals reversed the conviction and ordered Thompson released twenty minutes after the oral argument.  And there's ample reason to believe that the 2006 conviction of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat, was orchestrated by Republican operatives, including a US District Attorney whose husband was a paid consultant to Siegelman's opponent in the election. 

So, given that Ohio's the key swing state in November, could it be that Dimora and Russo are merely pawns in the game?  Not likely; for most people, the reaction to the searches wasn't so much, "Why now?" as "What took you so long?"  This town has been palpably corrupt for at least the last fifteen years, with the new Browns stadium, the airport reconstruction, and the acquistion of land for the new juvenile court and the new county administration building all embroiled in scandal.

In fact, one of the most frustrating things about this city is that we can't even do corruption right.  Chicago's more corrupt than we could ever dream of being; hardly a year goes by there without a bunch of alderman or judges being led away in handcuffs.  Yet the city functions smoothly, the garbage gets collected, the snow gets removed, the tourists come to see the waterfront, and the mayor is a national political figure.  Here?  Not so much; every snowfall is an adventure, and Mayor Frank Jackson is such a nonentity that when he finally endorsed Barack Obama before the Ohio primary and introduced him at a campaign rally, he was rewarded by having to sit on the dais and listen to Obama thank "Mayor Frank Johnson" for his support.

On the plus side, at least Rosemary Vinci has a job:

A former strip club manager is paid nearly $50,000 a year to work for the Cuyahoga County commissioners and county auditor, but two commissioners don't know her or what she does.

Rosemary Vinci, 50, is on the payroll of Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo. She splits her 35-hour work week between working for Russo and the three county commissioners, Russo's chief operating officer said.

Two of the county commissioners, Peter Lawson Jones and Tim Hagan, said last week they have never met Vinci. The third, Jimmy Dimora, had security officers remove two Plain Dealer reporters from Thursday's public meeting when they asked him about Vinci.


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