Sunday, March 21, 2010
Dimora defends himself: "Who doesn't argue to try to get a better price?"
Jimmy Dimora's talking again, trying to poke holes in the federal investigation of him, giving us more glimpses of his potential defense.
"We’re very confident," he told Duane Pohlman of NewsChannel 5 on Thursday. "I feel that I’ve done nothing wrong."
Dimora thinks he's found a weakness in the case the feds are building: the latest two contractors who've pleaded guilty to bribing him with home improvements didn't do any work for the county.
This is true: Nicholas Zavarella and John Valentin say they bribed Dimora to get recommendations for friends and family, not to get county work. (See my posts here and here.) Dimora says he's probably written thousands of recommendation letters.
"When I’m personally going to use them for my own use, I try to get companies and businesses that do no work with the government that I’m involved with," Dimora told Pohlman. He said his Ohio Ethics Commission disclosure forms list contractors who gave him discounts.
"I pretty much try to disclose for any type of discounting or any gift that I receive. Most of these people are friends." Dimora said he haggled with those friends for discounted work. "Who doesn’t argue to try to get a better price on work being done?"
Dimora also claimed a forthcoming state audit will show that his personal dealings did not involve taxpayer dollars. County staff "have been told by the auditing firm that the audits are clean, and they’re good, and they show that all the bids that were approved are all the lowest and best bids," he said.
Should we buy Jimmy's latest defense? Well, what he's saying may be true, but at most it highlights the gray areas in the feds' investigation of him. Dimora didn't address the prosecutors' claim that he didn't pay his contractor buddies until he learned the FBI was after him. Or the allegations that Dimora took $33,000 in cash and $60,000 in work from Steve Pumper, whose companies were very much involved in county business.
But we're seeing more and more of Dimora's defense emerge, and he's sounding a consistent theme: He still insists publicly that he's done nothing wrong.
Pohlman, NewsChannel 5's chief investigator, is good at getting Dimora to open up. The most infamous quotes from Dimora's already-legendary July press conference -- “I’m not an angel, but I’m no crook,” and “I’m not doing anything different than any other public official does” -- were responses to Pohlman's questioning. His interview style is probing, but seeks understanding; his questions sound almost sympathetic, but zero in on key parts of the charges.
Like other TV reporters, Pohlman also benefits from Dimora's running feud with the Plain Dealer. Dimora's decided the paper's out to get him, so he'd rather argue with PD reporters than give them straight answers. On Thursday, Dimora complained to Pohlman about the paper in front of PD reporter Henry Gomez. Awkward!
(You can watch most of Pohlman's interview with Dimora by clicking the six-minute video embedded above. The segment that aired on NewsChannel 5 on Thursday night, which includes a few more quotes, can be seen here. To read my Oct. 2009 profile of Dimora, "Life of the Party," click here.)