Jimmy Dimora didn't show up at the county commissioners' meeting today, and his colleagues, Tim Hagan and Peter Lawson Jones, called on him to take a 60-day leave of absence.
"We believe that the work of this county is important, and to be distracted during the most difficult economic times that we're confronted with is really a strain on our staff," Hagan said. "We would hope the public understands we are doing everything we can to do their work."
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Jones and Hagan both expressed their anger about Dimora's alleged conduct. Hagan criticized Dimora's statements at his press conference last week. It sounds like Dimora has lost their confidence and patience.
Jones said he and Hagan decided to ask Dimora to take a leave last night after reading the federal charges filed yesterday against Steve Pumper. The former contractor is accused of bribing Dimora with $97,000 in cash, gifts, and work on his home in exchange for at least eight official favors. Pumper issued a statement yesterday admitting wrongdoing.
"If the allegations .... are true, then we have all been betrayed," Jones said. "We have been betrayed as colleagues. We have been betrayed as long-time friends and associates of Jimmy Dimora."
Hagan called the conduct alleged in the filing "abhorrent" and "disgusting," though he said the allegations should be judged in court. "Peter and I know we have to maintain some decorum here. We've indicated how angry we are. We are very angry, believe me," Hagan said.
Hagan also criticized Dimora's claim last week that the federal investigation is politically motivated.
"The integrity of the federal court and federal prosecutor should not be in question," Hagan said. "Those who serve, whether at the United States government or Cuyahoga County, are public people who serve with real integrity in purpose. ... We need to be very careful, in my view, of guilt by association and wild comments. This board -- at least the two of us -- will refrain from conversation and comments that we think diminish those who serve."
Later, I asked Hagan if those comments referred in part to Dimora's press conference. Yes, he said.
Hagan said he and Jones plan to never allow Dimora to be the deciding vote on an issue before the board. If the two disagree on something, they just won't move forward. "Commissioner Jones and I will vote in the majority on issues before this board," Hagan said. "Neither of us will vote in a majority with Dimora [alone]. Why? Because we're doing the investigation."
The county's internal inquiry into all the contracts mentioned in the federal charges and subpoenas will continue, and broaden to include yesterday's filing, Hagan and Jones said. David Lambert of the county prosecutor's office, the commission's counsel, is involved in that effort. An outside attorney, Richard Blake, may be officially hired at next week's meeting.
The two commissioners said they had meant to ask Dimora to go on leave in person today. But with Dimora a no-show, they had to communicate their request to his staff. They haven't heard back yet. "Peter and I are as surprised as anyone that he didn't show up today," Hagan said. They are suggesting a 60-day leave, Jones explained, because a commissioner can be removed for abandoning his job if he is absent for more than 90 days straight.
A Fox 8 reporter asked Hagan and Jones: "Your anger, your exasperation, has it pushed either one of you to consider resigning yourselves, because you just don't want to be associated with this any longer?"
"We are not Sarah Palin," Jones said. "We aren't bailing."
"It's crossed my mind," Hagan said. "Why put up with it? But on the other hand, public life is an honorable thing. And I'm not going to let this define my service to the community."