The cameramen poured to the front of the county commissioners’ boardroom on Thursday as their regular public meeting shifted to another one of their must-be-more-explanatory private executive sessions. WaddayasaynowJimmy!? Waddayasay when you’re pinned against the wall?
“Clean up!” Commissioner Jimmy Dimora boomed to the audience at home, smiling pretty like mama always told him. Then he turned and waddled down a back hallway, seemingly made especially for him these days.
Other than the pervasive doom-saying of billions-deep state cutbacks to programs and services that the county can’t afford to replace (despite the half-billion on its way to the Kennedy family for a Medical Mart that Nashville will probably have first), it had been mostly regular business during the meeting. If only that whole 12-count indictment thing that federal prosecutors filed Friday wasn’t lingering in the air like old milk. In addition to officially pouring four more figures into the already murky depths of the county’s public corruption cesspool, the filing also unofficially and unmistakably indicts Dimora and pal/Auditor Frank Russo for being at the top of this whole stinky mess of free trips, cash and favors for lucrative contracts and plum do-nothing assignments.
First it was Rob Frost, county Republican motormouth, at the podium, wondering why fellow commissioners Peter Lawson Jones and Tim Hagan hadn’t demanded (instead of just advised) that Dimora resign. Just this week, Lawson Jones had to point out to Hagan that Phoenix Cement was on both the indictment papers as having floated Dimora’s boat during a Vegas junket and that week’s agenda for payment in the Juvenile Justice Center project. They voted to remove the item. (Later, Jones told Scene that no other contracts were removed this week. It should probably be a weekly question.)
It was his chief critic Frost who elicited Dimora’s only other “explanation” for his presence at the table, at this point just muddying up the public’s trust even more.
“My quote is,” said Dimora helpfully, “I’m doing my job that I was elected to do. And if I don’t do my job, then you’ll be up here saying he should be removed for not doing his job, so I’m up here doing my job.”
Little old Patricia Wright, who founded the fledgling Citizens for Reform Association of Cuyahoga County (CRACC!), provided a nice counterpoint to Frost’s frosty demeanor. During a short discussion about unspecified cash transfers, Wright tried to raise the question of Dimora’s alleged improprieties. But board president Hagan protected his boy. He told Wright, “We are not the Justice Center,” and, “If you include comments about my colleague, I’ll have to rule you out of order.”
She sheepishly agreed, but added, “Some of these things need to be closely examined, and the relationship to any possible corruption, and we will do that.”
As Wright walked away, Jones tried to cut the tension: “Ma’am, you might want to rethink that acronym.” Everyone but Wright seemed to laugh. She said, “It’s not spelled the same way,” as she left the room quietly shaking her head.
“Have a high day,” Hagan said to her back. These jokers.
Outside in the hallway, Wright blamed Dimora and Co. for why “the whole nation is looking at us now,” with even more contempt than usual. “I got involved in all this because of the convention center/Medical Mart thing,” she said. “I saw the now-infamous way that it’s been given to private citizens, our tax money. Somebody has to step forward and say, ‘Enough.’”
As soon as the latest indictments came down, illustrating how prosecutors believe former county geek squad leader J. Kevin Kelley served as bagman for Dimora and Russo, Dimora’s attorney, who usually hides behind the old “pending litigation” excuse, essentially started calling Kelley a schmuck. Who did this kid think he was? Lord knows what Mr. Dimora didn’t know about. Essentially.
What else can he say? After Thursday’s meeting, Jones was the only commissioner who didn’t run from the random questioning. He said Dimora heard loud and clear that he should leave: “We wouldn’t have asked Jimmy to do something that I wouldn’t have done myself if similarly situated, and that’s, at a minimum, to recuse myself in votes and deliberations. Me and Tim made that clear.”
Scene told Jones that he seemed a little angry. Would he use that word?
“I’m an…” he began, then switched gears like the trained lawyer he is, “I’m obviously disappointed that our advice was not heeded, but we can only offer counsel, and, again, there’s a different set of considerations that he has than the ones that Tim and I have.”
So should Scene launch a “Scheme of the Week” column? Help us help you — send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. — Dan Harkins