The Metro reporters at the Plain Dealer have been doing yeoman's work for the taxpayers of Cuyahoga County.
Though besieged by layoffs, cutbacks, and dwindling ad revenue, the paper has put a premium on investigative reporting in recent years. The result has been a string of stories unveiling corruption in the furthest reaches of county government, from run-of-the-mill incompetence and cronyism to Really Brazen Incompetence and Cronyism.
Reporter Mark Puente was responsible for some of the paper's biggest scoops, including the coverage of the recent scandals at the boards of revision, which is why it's sad news that he is leaving the paper.
Puente, who has pocketed awards for his work on the cop beat in Cleveland, will be taking his reporter's notebook to the St. Petersburg Times in Florida to cover real estate development. His last day at the PD will be September 29. Expect him to break some big news in Florida by October 3.
Why the move? Simple geography, says Puente.
"I lived in North Carolina for three years, and when I came back here it was for the Plain Dealer job," he says. "My wife and I, our intent was always to move back to a warmer climate. The paper did everything they could to keep me, and I appreciate the feeling of being wanted, but our desire was to move to a warmer climate."
Puente was a truck driver for 13 years before heading back to school to tackle journalism. He landed an internship with the PD in 2005 and parlayed that into a full-time job two months later.
It was his diligent reporting that brought down former sheriff Gerald McFaul. Puente's also been at the center of uncovering the abject mess at the Cuyahoga County Board of Revision, coverage that has led to firings, resignations, investigations, and plenty of taxpayers becoming familiar with the boards of revision for the first time.
Puente says fellow Metro scribes Gabriel Baird and Henry Gomez will carry the boards of revision torch in the future.
As for his time at the paper and the fruitful stories he's helped pen, he says, "It was a team effort. I'm proud of everything I've done here. And it wasn't just me, I also work with good editors."
Those editors are surely sad this week to lose Puente's services. County employees, on the other hand, are probably all smiles.
Congratulations and good luck to Mark. We'll miss seeing your byline.