Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ken Lanci rides personal wealth, $1 salary pledge in colorful campaign for Cuyahoga County executive

When Ken Lanci was 13, his father purchased a Cleveland printing company for the bargain-basement price of $1.

"Nobody," Lanci recalled thinking at the time, "sells anything good for a buck."

Sure enough, unbeknownst to his dad, the business came with a $25,000 tax lien.

Fast-forward nearly five decades. Lanci, today a successful printing mogul whose first taste of the industry came in those teenage years, drives a luxury car worth more than most homes. He lives in a suburban mansion valued at nearly $2 million. He keeps an orange glow -- a distinguishing contrast to his snow-white hair -- with the help of a personal tanning bed.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ed FitzGerald helped close a deal for which Jimmy Dimora was bribed, federal prosecutors say

Lakewood Mayor Ed FitzGerald, a top contender to be the first Cuyahoga County executive, helped close a deal for which Dimora had been bribed, federal prosecutors say.

FitzGerald has not been charged with a crime. Charges filed Wednesday against Dimora say that in March 2008 the county commissioner telephoned FitzGerald on behalf of businessman William Neiheiser, who wanted to lease Lakewood's ice rink. Neiheiser had phoned the mayor, but FitzGerald had not returned the call.

"He wants to make a proposal to you ... that he thinks will be advantageous to the city and to you if you wanted to talk to him," Dimora told FitzGerald, according to a transcript included in the 139-page indictment against Dimora, Neiheiser and others.

FitzGerald, a former FBI agent, obliged.

"I'll make time ... I'll make time to talk to him," he replied.

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Jimmy Dimora: The political outsider who became kingmaker

As fast as Jimmy Dimora built a political machine to rule Cuyahoga County, his machine's collapse came even faster.

When federal agents raided Dimora's house and office in July 2008, citizens got their first glimpse at a corruption probe that over the next 26 months would tear apart county government.

Ever since that day, Dimora, 55, and his closest friends and political allies -- some innocent, others not -- lived under intense scrutiny. Within a year, Dimora was pushed to the sidelines of the Democratic Party he had led for 16 years. He defiantly refused to resign as a county commissioner and challenged prosecutors to charge him or leave him and his family alone.

Early this morning, they opted for the former. Agents arrested Dimora at his Independence home and led him out in handcuffs and chains.

"I'm sickened by it," Tim Hagan, a fellow Democrat and commissioner, said this morning after hearing of Dimora's arrest. "It's been a nightmare, and it's coming to an end."

Dimora maintains his innocence. But, unquestionably, the events of the past two years diminish his legacy as one of the greatest political talents Greater Cleveland has ever seen.

While fallout from the federal investigation cannot yet be measured completely, one certain souvenir is the new form of government corruption-weary voters approved last year. New leaders will be elected this fall. Replacing Dimora, if he finishes his term, as well as the two other commissioners, will be a county executive with a local constituency unrivaled in terms of size.

It is the type of office that Dimora, a man for whom big is too simple an adjective, might crave under different circumstances. Fueling the irony, Democrats harbor legitimate fears that he has left the party in such turmoil that a Republican or independent might win the job.

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