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Insurer Plays Scrooge, Cranks Hours

Happy Holidays! The giving season arrives early this year at Medical Mutual, where the hike from a 37.5-hour work week to 40 hours begins on November 1. "It is essential that we work harder and smarter in order to win in the marketplace," CEO Kent Clapp urges in a pep-talk memo announcing the move. Hourly employees will be paid for the extra hours, according to the memo, which conveniently neglects to mention that salaried employees will not. In the words of another hard-charging organization, Arbeit macht frei.

It's an early retirement for County Engineer Thomas Neff, who was widely expected to step down before his term expires in 2001, giving Democrats an opportunity to hold the office by appointing a successor. Neff instead is expected to clean out his desk next month, which would position his replacement for a party endorsement in next year's primaries. The leading candidate is Strongsville City Engineer Bob Klaiber, who did not return phone calls. Engineering credentials are a requirement for the office, though contrary to popular opinion, shaking down employees for campaign contributions is not.

Speaking of political advancement, County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora has moved to fancier digs in Independence, in one of the new subdivisions off of Pleasant Valley Road. "When I bought my house in 1980, it was just me and my wife. Now we have three kids," he says of the Bedford Heights home they have outgrown after 20 years. "It was hard to leave, but everyone moves on." No hot tub at the new place, but Dimora is ready to make a deal.

Hot talk on the law enforcement circuit is that the FBI was très POed about the arrest earlier this month of Cuyahoga Community College VP Mourad Topalian, on charges of masterminding Armenian terrorist attacks on Turkish government buildings. Apparently FBI agents were running their own investigation of Topalian and got skunked when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, along with the Bedford police, slapped the cuffs on first. Just be thankful the ATF didn't burn down Topalian's house.

Back when the Browns were contenders and PSLs only a greedmonger&supl;s dream, parking downtown for the games was a loose, relaxed endeavor. Early arrivals could park on the street in secluded corners of the Warehouse District and tailgate until kickoff. No more. Now revelers on Johnson Court, a narrow byway between West Sixth and Ninth streets, get chased off to a nearby private lot ($20 a car) or the Muny Shoreway lot ($10). "It never used to be a problem parking there, but now they want to gouge you for every penny you've got," complains one longtime Johnson Court regular. "The policy is no different from years past," says mayoral spokeswoman Nancy Lesic. "Streets are clearly marked where there's no parking on game day, and on some, because of the width, no parking at all is allowed." Reportedly, cops are telling unhappy motorists that the orders to scram come directly from Mayor Mike White's office -- a charge Lesic denies. "Definitely not," she sniffs. "Once again, it seems the police are trying to make the mayor out to be some sort of monster." At least he won't need a costume for Halloween.

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