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Pols, Pulps Pull Vanishing Act

Where's Westbrook? The deposed council president and mayoral shill isn't the only luminary missing in action after a particularly brutal week. Among the other bodies littering or conspicuously absent from the battlefield:

·Council Clerk Cecelia Huffman, a Mike White loyalist (and snitch, according to some council members) who was in the mayor's office shortly after Westbrook was ousted -- presumably to discuss a new job assignment. Early talk of a replacement has included former Councilwoman Helen Smith and State Representative Barbara Pringle, but a better bet is longtime council legislative assistant Ruby Moss, who lost to Huffman in a close vote earlier this year.

·Chief Counsel Dennis Fennessey, who has disappeared from the city Law Department after just three months, apparently because he couldn't keep his hands off the ladies. According to mayoral spokeswoman Nancy Lesic, "Allegations of a serious nature were brought to the city by three females in the Law Department. They were of such a nature that swift action was taken . . . [Fennessey] was given the option to resign."

·The Plain Dealer, missing from the list of "America's Best Newspapers" in the latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review. In voting by more than 100 newspaper editors across the country, The Plain Dealer was unable to crack either the top 35 or a group of 60 also-rans. In fact, The PD didn't even get a ballot to cast, according to Editor Doug Clifton, who admits the omission from the list stings. "The Plain Dealer suffers the same way Cleveland does," he says. "If people are not familiar with it, they don't have a good impression." And in all fairness, any list that ranks USA Today the 12th-best newspaper in the country is just a wee bit suspect.

·Scene, kicked out of Medical Mutual's Rose Building headquarters after that tasteless comparison to the Third Reich. But our box at the corner of East Ninth and Prospect is doing brisk business.

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That backfiring sound is the grumbling of local Democrats, some of whom are upset over the party's decision to endorse public defender James Draper for a seat on the Eighth District Court of Appeals. The heir apparent to retiring Appellate Judge John Patton had been Colleen Conway Cooney -- a sitting Muny Court judge, loyal Dem, and white woman. But party boss Jimmy Dimora, trying to make good on his pledge to install more African Americans on the bench, set up a screening panel to find a qualified black candidate. The panel settled on Draper, who lost to Bill Mason last year in the precinct committeeman vote to succeed County Prosecutor Stephanie Tubbs Jones and had threatened to run against Mason next year. "They basically took a black man running against a white man [Mason] and replaced it with a black man running against a white woman," says one frustrated party regular. "You call that affirmative action?" Politically, the endorsement is good for Draper, Mason, Dimora -- essentially, everyone except Cooney. Whoever wins the March primary will likely face Republican Common Pleas Judge Anthony Calabrese Jr. in the general election. And the usual racial strife.

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Last Laugh: TV newsguy Emmett Miller, ridiculed in this column last week, has been named one of the sexiest men in America by no less an authority than People magazine. Go figure.

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