by Frank Lewis
In the 51 pages of indictment filed Friday against county fixer J. Kevin Kelley and three others — adding four more figures to the six building inspectors already accused of corruption — one of Kelley’s quotes gathered from extensive federal wiretapping casts the perfect illumination on how business has been done around these parts: “Loyalty makes up for brains any day.”
Kelley had allegedly just talked with county commissioner and Dem boss Jimmy Dimora and Auditor Frank Russo, who assured Kelley that the Alternatives Agency he was consulting for — apart from his duties as the top county computer nerd — wouldn’t lose funding from the county probation department, as previously warned. According to federal prosecutors, Kelley had already plied his buddy Dimora with “expensive meals, travel to New Orleans and at least $1,000” in return for even more funding in 2008 for Kelley’s client.
In January 2008, when other funding opportunities arose for the agency, Kelley, through an unidentified attorney, told Alternatives Agency employee Brian Schuman (also indicted on Friday) to increase his monthly fee by $2,000 for four months, so he could send Dimora, Russo and a Russo companion on a high-stakes junket to Vegas. The next month, Kelley, Schuman and another Alternatives Agency worker were lunching at Delmonico’s in Independence when he called Dimora about the funding matter, which was on the commissioners’ agenda the next day:
Dimora: “Yeah, give ’em more, you mean? Or take it away?”
Kelley: “No. To give ’em back some of their, what you stole from them.”
Dimora (laughing): “I don’t wanna know what you get out of this. I don’t even wanna fucking know.”
Kelley: “I get nothing out of this.”
Dimora: “I don’t even want to know. The less I know the better.”
Kelley: “Definitely. The less you know the better is right.”
And then Kelley again: “Speaking of that, Vegas.”
Shortly after Dimora and Russo got back, Alternatives Agency was the sole bidder on a new work-release program.
This is one of several new pay-to-play schemes laid out by federal prosecutors pointing straight to the top of the county’s long-entrenched power establishment, a party and county structure long fueled by those who grease all the right palms. How many contracts are now suspect? How many were secured by nefarious means? It looks like quite the handful, from high-dollar to small-potatoes. Janitor-cum-
Bedford Bedford Heights mayor-cum-Dem king Dimora apparently comes pretty cheap.
What’s that? Free pool tiles? Sure, you can have that street-resurfacing gig! Read the new indictment (on the Scene&Heard blog), and behold how Jimmy begat Jabba.
So who’s next on the chopping block? Numerous businesses and tradesmen are accused of securing county contracts by greasing the palms of building and engineering department employees, as well as Kelley, who had the most direct line to Dimora and his old friend Russo. In just one of the 12 new counts, Dimora is quoted by prosecutors offering key insider information that clearly helped a contractor prepare an easily winning bid on the new juvenile justice center job. What pulled Dimora’s string this time? Vegas, baby. Long conversations were held just to figure out how best to conceal who really paid for this new line of freebies. And seven times during the April 2008 trip, prosecutors allege, the contractor’s employee forked over gambling chips to Dimora. Kelley got a few grand worth too.
With such flagrant abuses — and we’ve only begun to learn of them all — we wonder why it was so hard to pin anything on former mayor Mike White, whose bag man Nate Gray was put away years ago in City Hall’s pay-to-play fiasco, giving White the freedom to pursue his lifelong dream of raising alpacas. Maybe Dimora and Russo are helping prosecutors wrap all that up now. Loyalty and all. — Dan Harkins