When I interviewed Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald for the current issues of Cleveland Magazine and Inside Business, we talked about his relationship with county prosecutor Bill Mason.
FitzGerald once worked for Mason as an assistant prosecutor, and I’d heard it suggested that Mason’s political faction helped FitzGerald clinch the Democratic party endorsement for executive last summer. After a tough, controversial 2010, Mason has said he won’t run for re-election in 2012. Shrewdly, FitzGerald distanced himself a bit from Mason during our conversation — but not by too much. The edited version of the interview in January’s Cleveland Magazine includes some of our talk about Mason, but I’m posting the full exchange on the topic here.
Cleveland Magazine: Did you have a dispute with Bill Mason over Issue 6?
Ed FitzGerald: We weren’t on the same side of it. I talked to him about it. He told me that I should be for it. I told him I didn’t think it was well-drafted. I expressed to him all the problems I had with it.
Bill and I have a cordial and professional relationship. We’re not personal friends or anything like that. When I ran for mayor, Bill did not endorse me and did not support me. I was elected to the city council on my own without Bill’s help. When I first talked to Bill about running for county executive, he advised me not to do it and was not supportive.
I started as a prosecutor under Stephanie Tubbs Jones and I eventually was a prosecutor under Bill. But he doesn’t look for my permission to what he does politically, and I don’t look for permission from him for what I do politically.
CM: Why did he tell you not to run for county executive?
EF: Basically, because I hadn’t supported Issue 6. Early on, I think he thought the proponents of Issue 6 would end up picking the next county executive, and they were never going to pick me. I also think he just thought I was going to have difficulty politically, because I hadn’t run countywide before.
CM: This summer, when you received the Democratic Party endorsement, was he helpful with that?
EF: That’s about exactly when he was of some — some — help. But we had a campaign team, and he was never part of that. We set up our own organization. It didn’t rely on any elected official, Bill Mason or anybody else.
CM: People said that his office should have known about what Frank Russo and Dimora were up to and put a stop to it. Does the role of the county prosecutor need to change in the new government?
EF: In my opinion, the job of uncovering any potential corruption, and rooting it out, and making sure processes are in place so it doesn’t happen is going to fall to the inspector general, not the prosecutor.
To read more of my interview with FitzGerald in the January issue of Cleveland Magazine, click here. To read FitzGerald talking about economic development and political influence in the January-February issue of Inside Business, click here.