Monday, October 5, 2009

FitzGerald: "I may be appointed county auditor"

The Frank Russo resignation watch is heating up. Thursday afternoon, Lakewood Mayor Ed FitzGerald posted this on

It's possible that I may be appointed County Auditor due to the emergency situation currently involving that office. I'm sure some people won't like that, and some will be happy about it. I have no plans to move out of the city my family has called home since 1929. I own a home here, I'm raising my kids here, and I'm staying here.

Seven hours later, a guy with the screen name "Eugmc" posted this on

A source has informed The Cleveland Leader that embattled Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo will be stepping down from office in the very near future. Edward Fitzgerald, currently the Mayor of the City of Lakewood, will assume the role of County Auditor, the source added. The replacement for the Mayor of Lakewood would be a high level official in the suburb.

FitzGerald's announcement is no surprise: He's been running for Russo's job all year, lobbying the party insiders who vote on mid-term appointments. But why's he going public with it now? Maybe he thinks he has the job locked up. (Mark Naymik thinks he's close.) And maybe he hears Russo's leaving soon.

I wonder if the Leader rumor came from FitzGerald's camp. Hard to say how reliable it is.

No one can make Russo leave. But the heat on him must be getting unbearable. He knows the feds think he stole $1.2 million in cash. The attorney general and state auditor are both going to pore over his office's books. Former allies want him gone. Clinging to his job until trial might have seemed easy this winter, but not so today.

FitzGerald's making a shrewd move. He's a former FBI agent, so he's attractive to Democrats who want to purge corruption before it taints the party further. FitzGerald even called attorney general Richard Cordray last month to press him to investigate Russo.

An aggressive campaigner, FitzGerald ran former mayor Tom George out of office in 2007 with a tough, scary message portraying Lakewood as a suburb on the brink, threatened by crime and aging homes. Running on the slogan "Vote like your neighborhood depended on it" (that's approximate -- I'm writing from memory here), FitzGerald won twice as many votes as George.

Earlier this year, one party insider told me FitzGerald was running too hard for Russo's job, as if the mayor's ambition was coming off as unseemly. But now it's sounding like his tenacity will pay off.

No comments: