John Kandah was a Cuyahoga County employee for many years, eventually landing a position as Chief Recorder under Lillian Greene. He says he was beyond the reach of the corruption that brought down a sizable portion of our local government, landed more than a few crooks in jail, and helped usher in a new, reformed government. He's penned a book, The Price of Honor, that covers what he witnessed, why and how he stayed clean, and why that cost him his job. He took a few minutes to spread some more vitriol for those he feels have wronged and continue to wrong the taxpayers.
I haven't seen a lot of pub for your book yet.
It was just released last Friday. I've been writing it since back in 2003 when I was working in Children's Services. Basically, I wanted to be a policeman when I was growing up. I had seven sisters and they needed protection and I wanted to help people. I got into an accident in 1990 and couldn't be a cop, so I went back to school at Tri-C to get my masters. I learned a lot about city government and county government, and I thought that was the best way to help people. But then I started to see what I thought was being done wrong and I started writing the book.
What did you see?
I got the Children's Services job in 2000. I spent 8 years in hell. I wasn't a trained social worker. It's kind of like a doctor hating the sight of blood. I was becoming a pain in the ass to my superiors. I was watching hundreds of thousands of dollars being pissed away at this half-billion-dollar agency – it had the highest budget of any department – and I thought I was doing them a favor saying here's a program that would save $100,000, or here's what we can do better. They just told me to shut up and go back to doing what you were doing. In 2003, I started asking around – I wanted to direct my own agency. Finally, I got word that you had to pay for a position. You had to pay Russo or Dimora. Now, I've been to parties in Democratic circles for years, and I've been to Russo and Dimora's parties. All the PD people were there, Mark Naymik and all those guys, and every judge was there. Basically, Dimora and Russo used to call me a boy scout. Word got back to me that I couldn't be trusted. I just wanted to do what was right for the people. When you're a public servant, that's what it's about.
Any Russo/Dimora details in the book that would be considered new and outside of what we learned in the FBI investigation?
No, not really. The lawyers took a lot of stuff out of the book.
You said you sold out of all your copies on hand at your book signing last week? People still get off on this stuff, huh?
We had 48 copies on hand and we sold them all. The gray areas are where politicians destroy people and this is about that.
Give me an example.
When I was in the county, I had names of people that I couldn't find in person that were getting paychecks and people who were making $50,000 to pull staples out of paper. And then I got to the Recorder's office. I cut the budget by 40 percent. I was making good things happen. Then FitzGerald comes in and I see them tearing down office walls and putting them back up. I was like, we're leaving this building in two years. Why are you spending all this money? Everyone, again, told me to mind my own business.
And then you got fired.
Yeah, finally on March 24 they fired me. I wasn't keeping my mouth shut. I wasn't going to watch people destroy what we had rebuilt. They were going on a firing spree. It's not sour grapes. It has to do with somebody who keeps running for office and that's all he does.
Not a Fitz fan?
I helped him win. But it's not just that, my bias at the time was getting the right guy for the job, but we couldn't get anyone fast enough to run. We just knew whomever we were going to run for the position had to be clean. We figured he was an FBI agent and he'd be good. Then all the people who worked on his campaign were fired. We knew then he was full of shit, that he was just about himself. He brought people immediately in from Columbus to start campaigning even before he started this job.
What are you doing now?
The city and the county have blacklisted me because I won't turn away from crime. I haven't officially worked since April 2011, I guess. I'm going to just bide my time and wait for the current people to leave and then I'll clean up their messes.
And this is all because you're a, to use Russo's term, a boy scout?
Part of me wanted to come up with the $20,000 to get a job back then. But my wife told me she'd be ashamed of me. She talked me out of it. A week later they were kicking in doors. I would have been in prison. $20,000 probably would have gotten me a director's gig. When I got the Chief Recorder job, people would ask me how much I paid for it. I told them nothing.
And you want back in to clean up the messes now. Why?
I have interns going around collecting signatures to get on the ballot for mayor. I would fix this city. If I get the signatures, there's no doubt I'd win. Frank Jackson, God bless him, he can't find a coherent sentence. They're all full of shit and Jackson won't take leadership. He's a nice guy being badly served by his Safety Director and Chief of Police who are both double dipping and only showing up when they feel like it.
Where can folks find your book?
PriceofHonor.org, and on Facebook. And I have another book signing this Friday at the Barley House from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.