The corruption investigation has touched Cleveland City Hall again. Former councilwoman Sabra Pierce Scott was charged today with taking $2,000 from businessman Michael Forlani in exchange for supporting his development of Cleveland's new veterans' hospital tower.
Pierce Scott represented Glenville's Ward 8 from 2002 to 2009, when she abruptly and mysteriously resigned from city council.
The charge suggests Pierce Scott asked for, and got, $2,000 in cash to pay her daughter's tuition as well as a job for her son with Forlani's company Doan Pyramid Electric. In exchange, it's alleged, Pierce Scott co-sponsored several pieces of legislation that supported the veterans' hospital tower, including a tax financing agreement.
I say "suggests" because the filing doesn't name Forlani, who hasn't been charged with a crime, or his companies. But the details about "BE 10," "Business 14," and "Business 42" make his identity clear. It also doesn't name the VA hospital tower, but the references to a $120 million project with Port Authority financing are unmistakable.
The filing also says Pierce Scott chewed out an unnamed fellow councilperson at a 2006 finance committee meeting for questioning the amount of minority participation on the hospital project.
"How dare you use your own approach to question a project in my ward without having a discussion with me first," the prosecutors quote her as saying. "I don't mess with your projects and don't you mess with mine."
Sounds like a typical city council turf war, if not for the alleged cash in an envelope! (Update, 9/30: Zack Reed tells the Plain Dealer he's the councilman Pierce Scott ripped into. That makes sense. Reed often pushes for minority participation in construction jobs, and he often breaks the unofficial council rule Pierce Scott so clearly articulated in the quote, that councilpeople don't question what goes on in others' wards.)
Prosecutors filed the charge against Pierce Scott as an information, not an indictment, usually a sign that the defendant is cooperating with the investigation.
The charge finally brings to light a quiet part of the FBI's corruption investigation. The VA project was named three years ago in a search warrant executed on Jimmy Dimora's office. Forlani's Doan Pyramid Electric was raided on the same day. But no county employee was ever charged with improperly influencing the VA project. Instead, a former city councilwoman is now charged with doing so.