Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hagan blasts PD for Kennedy question, "pimp" comment

Tim Hagan blasted the Plain Dealer again at today's county commission meeting. Scroll down (way down) to see the video.

Hagan says the paper has "questioned my integrity" and resorted to personal attacks. "The press is out of control, for the purpose of seeking readership while the paper is in decline," he charged.

Hagan's mad -- understandably -- that editorial writer Chris Evans, commenting on the Medical Mart project on WCPN last Thursday, called Hagan a "pimp leading the dance." Evans has apologized. (Roldo Bartimole, a Hagan critic for decades, cheers the "pimp" line here.)

Hagan's also upset that the PD dared to ask a really obvious and important question: how has Tim Hagan's close relationship with the Kennedy family affected the negotiations with Med Mart developer MMPI and its president, Chris Kennedy?

This is the article that set Hagan off. The PD says one reason it threatened a lawsuit to get the county to reveal its latest agreement with MMPI is that it's "concerned" about the Hagan-Chris Kennedy relationship.

At a meeting a year ago, when an earlier county-MMPI agreement was unveiled, even Jimmy Dimora mentioned Hagan's awkward ties.

“Commissioner Hagan especially, because of his relationship with the Kennedy family, was in a very difficult position,” Dimora said then. "And he stood up for our community and for making sure we got a good deal. Even though [with] friendship, sometimes you try to be lax and easier with your friends, more understanding, he stood the line, which helped make sure that MMPI knew that we were serious and that we wanted to do the right thing for the taxpayers."

That's Hagan's dilemma, his conflict of interest, right there. Of course the PD should ask about it.

I did too, last spring. "The assumption is that I would be compromised in those discussions," Hagan said then. "I don’t want to give that impression. I certainly know people in this town as well or better that we’ve negotiated with." (Today at the meeting, Hagan said Sam Miller and the Ratners of Forest City have given him $75,000 over the years, which didn't keep him from rejecting their Med Mart site.)

"I know Chris Kennedy," Hagan told me last year. "I went to his mother’s 80th birthday party. They’ve been friends of mine for almost 40 years. But the Kennedys no longer own Merchandise Mart, and he’s the president of the company. I don’t think that precludes my discussions with him.

"I think the public scrutiny and transparency of the deal put before the public is proof that I’ve tried to operate in the best interests of community first and foremost."

Which is why the PD wants to see the new agreement!

I think the Hagan-Kennedy relationship has potential risks and potential rewards. Of course it's harder to be a tough negotiator when a friend is across the table. But people who like the Medical Mart could flip the argument and claim: if it weren't for Hagan's valuable personal relationship, the deal would have never gotten done! Update, Sunday: Chris Kennedy says exactly that in a Plain Dealer story: "Who's got the juice in that town? ... We would not invest there if it weren't for Tim Hagan."

One more bit of news: Toward the end of the video, Hagan says he's not running for reelection in 2012.

Update, Friday a.m.: Here's the PD story about Hagan's complaints, with responses from editor Susan Goldberg.

1 comment:

Ian Hoffman said...

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.