Thursday, June 18, 2009

Republican chair challenges Dimora at meeting

County Republican chairman Rob Frost appeared at the county commission meeting today and publicly challenged Jimmy Dimora.

When the commissioners prepared to approve several amendments to contracts, including one to the juvenile justice center, Frost asked to speak. He cited the federal prosecutors' allegation that "public tax dollars [are] being diverted to personal gain" and asked the other commissioners, Peter Lawson Jones and Tim Hagan, if they would ask for Dimora's resignation.

Hagan replied at length that Dimora, like anyone, is innocent unless proven guilty. He did acknowledge that "this board has expressed its concern about the integrity of the system with respect to voting" -- an apparent reference to his and Jones' suggestion that Dimora recuse himself from all votes on county business. But Hagan added, "My colleague has every right to his day in court."

Then Frost tried to address Dimora. Dimora turned to Hagan, who was presiding over the meeting, to cut him off. "Are we going to get into personal attacks and issues on individual commission members?" Dimora asked Hagan. Hagan told Frost to address the agenda item, the amendments.

Frost cited the Plain Dealer story about Hagan and Jones asking Dimora to recuse himself. He mentioned Jones' characterization of Dimora's response, which was that not voting would be an admission of guilt.

"That is not my quote," Dimora answered. "My quote is, I’m doing my job that I was elected to do. If I don’t do my job, then you’ll be up here saying, 'He should be removed for not doing his job.'"

"Do you feel you are able to vote on the juvenile justice center?" Frost asked.

"Yes, I do," Dimora said.

A minute later, he did: approving a list of 29 agreements, contracts, and amendments, including one expanding the steel contract at the juvenile justice center.

Removed from that list was an expansion of the concrete contract on the project. Unexplained at the meeting was the reason it was removed. According to Jones' comments in the PD yesterday, it's because the contract is mentioned in Friday's federal charges.

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