Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Feds: Russo set up fake opponent in 2006 auditor's race

If and when the feds indict Frank Russo in the county corruption investigation, how many charges will they levy against him? How many different ways of allegedly corrupting a government can one investigation uncover?

Yesterday's single, five-page charge describes a simple scheme: Russo sets up a puppet opponent to run against him in the 2006 election, then hires him. That's on top of charges that depict Russo as taking $1.2 million in cash kickbacks, selling jobs for cash, bribing J. Kevin Kelley with a raise to drop out of the 2003 Parma mayor's race, nudging contracts toward buddies who paid for him to party in Vegas, and shopping for free granite for his house in exchange for lowering a businessman's property valuations.

I'll let the U.S. Attorney's filing tell the rigged-election story directly, except I'm substituting Russo for the code name PO2. Nothing except the feds' rule of not naming uncharged people keeps anyone from identifying Russo at this point: it's a matter of record that this latest defendant, Joseph Gallucci, ran against Russo as the 2006 Republican candidate for Cuyahoga County auditor and dropped out before the general election.

Gallucci approached Kelley about obtaining a job with the County in order to secure health insurance benefits. Kelley, Gallucci and others discussed Gallucci giving [Russo] cash or another thing of value in exchange for Gallucci receiving a County job.

In or around the second half of 2005, [Russo], a County official, and Kelley discussed [Russo]'s re-election campaign for the November 2006 election cycle. [Russo] and Kelley discussed [Russo]'s desire to identify and support a candidate from the opposing political party who would not run an aggressive campaign against [Russo]. ... Kelley suggested to Gallucci that instead of giving [Russo] cash of the thing of value previously discussed, Gallucci, a member of the opposing political party, could run against [Russo] in the County election.

Gallucci agreed to run an ineffective campaign against [Russo], understanding that in return, Gallucci would receive a job in the Auditor's Office after the November 2006 election at a salary of approximately $50,000 a year. As agreed, Gallucci did run, but didn not campaign actively and spent approximately only a few hundred dollars on the campaign...

In or around May 2006, Gallucci complained that he needed to withdraw from the political race and find employment. [Russo] and others encouraged Gallucci to stay in the race long enough to preclude the opposing political party from entering a replacement candidate. [Russo] offered to subsidize income until Gallucci began employment with the County.

In or about June 2006, Kelley, at [Russo]'s request, introduced Gallucci to BE15 and BE16 [relatives who work for a managed care organization in Cleveland]. BE15 and BE16, through Business 22, paid Gallucci $2,000 per month for five months, beginning on or about July 7, 2006. While the payments were purportedly for consulting, Gallucci performed no work for Business 22.

[Russo] asked Gallucci to withdraw from the race after the filing deadline had passed for the opposing political party to substitute another candidate for Gallucci. On or about October 2, 2006, Gallucci withdrew from the race. On or about November 29, 2006, [Russo] caused Gallucci to be hired in the Auditor's Office at a salary of approximately $67,849.86 per year in return for Gallucci withdrawing from the race after the deadline had passed for the opposing political party to substitute another candidate for Gallucci.

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