Friday, June 12, 2009

Charge: Bribes over engineer's offices at Stonebridge

The feds also think bribes were paid regarding the county engineer's leased offices at the Stonebridge condo complex on the Superior Viaduct.

This charge is carefully worded. Money and gifts are alleged to have been passed through a long chain, and who allegedly did what in exchange for what is complicated. Here are the parts related to "PO1," the unnamed elected official:
From in or about the Summer of 2003 through in or about April, 2008, Business 5 provided PAYNE, PO 1 and other County officials with free personal use of a furnished condominium at Stonebridge.
PAYNE paid for PO 1 to receive personal services at a cost of approximately $2,000 to $3,000, and paid approximately $11,525 for limousines to chauffeur PO1 and his family on approximately 22 occasions. These trips included travel to the airport, trips to Detroit and Canada for gambling, and transporting POl's child to college. In exchange for the things of value POI received from PAYNE, POI used his official position to benefit Eagle's clients, Business 5, and PAYNE.

The Plain Dealer has a story online about the Stonebridge charge. It names Dimora as PO1. That would fit a detail in the search warrant executed at the engineer's office last July. One thing the FBI was looking for was: "All records, including keys, pertaining to Kevin Payne's, John Kevin Kelley's, or James "Jimmy" Dimora's use of a condominium in the Stonebridge development in 2008."

Two thoughts about the possible implications of this.

{One is that the Plain Dealer has often written about the FBI's county corruption investigation and the probe of Cleveland's building and housing department as if they were one investigation. Last month, the acting U.S. Attorney told me there was "very, very little" connection between the two. I wrote that his comments suggested the PD didn't know much about what the feds were thinking.}

{But this Stonebridge charge could add weight to the PD's theory of the case. This spring, federal prosecutors charged Hank Picozzi, an employee of Stonebridge owner K&D, with bribing a city inspector. If Picozzi aided the feds in their county investigation, that would fit the connection the paper has drawn.} Update, September: This story about Picozzi's guilty plea says he did not offer to cooperate with the feds until after March 2009. That weakens this possibility.

My other thought is: K&D is also the company that would like to buy the Ameritrust Tower from the county. I wonder if this will have any impact on that deal.

Update, 4 p.m.: I talked to Virginia Davidson, a lawyer for K&D. She declined to comment about the prosecutor's filing's references to a Business 5, which operates Stonebridge.

"K&D Group is not mentioned, is not named, is not a party, in the [filing]," she said.

"K&D is not accused of doing anything wrong. K&D has not done anything wrong. K&D is a good company with good people. K&D is doing a lot of things downtown."

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