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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And speaking of search and siezure....

Yesterday up to 200 federal authorities carried out a massive raid of some county officials' offices, including that of Jimmy Dimora, one of 3 Cuyahoga County Commissioners, and Chair of the Cuyahoga Democratic Party - all involving charges of corruption.
News of the lock down, the raids, the search warrants, what they are looking for is of course, being covered in Cleveland mainstream news, one link of which is the Plain Dealer coverage.
The charges to date seem mostly involved with alleged violations having to do with the building trades, possible kickbacks, favors and undue influence for massive county contracts.
Coming into particular question are such recent wheelings & dealings that still amaze me when I see who got what right under noses, and what deals they wrought while we pay the costs to lose more - include the long-strategized, but still relatively recent and bizarre plans for the new Juvenile Justice Center.
(This article, "Tainted," by James Renner of the now, since July 16, former FreeTimes is a MUST READ about the '06 and previous stuff about this really dirty dealing, for really dirty land, (highly toxic,) in the middle of a high crime area, away from public transportation - and onto which, city, county and probably state "officials" found no problem in placing troubled youths and their families who might accompany and visit .... with a deal long in the strategy, (while mold growth and crumbling continued in the current building) - bending again to seeming multi-billion Forest City Enterprises, who sat in the background and pulled the officials' strings, seemingly all out for the pullin'- to make millions in this dirty land deal.
I doubt that the FBI will get around to raiding Forest City....")

It also includes the AmeriTrust building. (When I sat in a few Commissioners' Thursday meetings last year, to witness new deals coming down the pike for the elections board, I was aghast at the blatancy and thier long speeches and seeming good humor around it. The less expensive company, fully qualified for high-rise asbestos removal, losing to the far more expensive company, without the proven expertise, and with business complaints against their work - but good buds of the Commissioners.) Then there is the Medical Mart. ( The "hearings" around it filled with downtown "suits;" the too few Summer weeks last year, that legions of us filled with trying to get the enormous number of signatures, to do what the Commissioners should have done - to put the (now already raised) tax onto the ballot.

But w
hat all that have to do with elections or election justice?
One only has to think, about what has occurred recently in just the election arena, to know that these dramatic raids and seeming step toward justice in the corruption that is Cuyahoga County, while looking like a huge step, and probably lost of nasty stuff that will be found, may be true - the sudden investigation, in current form and curious timing however, is most probably also a highly politically motivated and specifically targeted show: a large smoke screen to cover and help something and someones else more powerful. As bad as it may end up, it will not begin to touch the real and worst source(s) of the county and state corruption - in both parties, and across parties. It never does.

ALL THREE Commissioners are, and have been closely involved and in Cuyahoga elections, as they've each been at least in the know in all the building deals being focussed on in front of us now.
They are the ones who appropriated the eventual more than $20M to Diebold, despite public protestations supported by facts (I know, at end of 2005, I was at their meetings weekly) while publicly positioning how bad Blackwell, and eventually how bad Diebold was - but still never seeming to be able to ask the right questions, or hold their buddies on CCBOE accountable, and just letting it all slide - all while claiming they didn't know, and publicly posturing about other cutbacks just because of elections. It certainly appeared that Mr. Hagan, and Mr. Bennett, and even an editor of the PD, Brent Larkin are all friends (or else have something(s) really big on each other, so they keep each other close and happy.)

They are also the ones who seemingly entertained an apparently requested bid/proposal from ES&S last September, '07 when neither the public, nor apparently other vendors knew about it; and well before any (public) talk even began about Cuyahoga changing systems/buying millions of dollars of new equipment; and at a time, which was after one of their former county administrators, a close buddy, also eventually a former Director of the CCBOE, Tom Hayes, became a registered lobbyist for, and seemingly well-connected with high-ranking state Dems, sales rep for ES&S.
See Was the (CCBOE) ES&S Contract Selection Predetermined?

It was also the Commissioners who hired the same Hayes as Project Manager for about 4 months preceding the '06 November election, for about a total of $60K - $4K/week, so an election could happen - as he babysat and spoke for the approx. $120K/year Director Vu - an arrangement that seemed to accede to the wishes of Bennett who seemingly promised Vu he would not be fired/could resign with money to go ($40K) -as long as they all kept quiet about the events that preceded, and had proceeded from the '04 election.

And it was the Commissioners who ended up "negotiating" with ES&S what ended up to be an approximate new approx. $17M, 5-year contract with ES&S, a highly questionable contract - after the elections board decided to adopt the company, but could not come to contract terms ( though Hart Intercivic was the much more popular competitor even with staff, and the almost $5M less expensive bidder.)

And it was the Commissioners who ended up "negotiating" away promises that ES&S had made, and guaranteed on 6/12/08; and who - though made sure there were "fit for use" clauses and warranties not found in the previous Diebold contract, allowed those terms to be nothing more than more lawyers' and vendor's dreams - seemingly so general, and would take so much in court to prove that ES&S failures were not someone else's- (anyone else's fault and liability - the typical vendor cry) - that in the end, may have left ES&S (and Tom Hayes) still laughing all the way to the bank. ( I don't think the FBI will be raiding Tom Haye's LNE Group, nor ES&S's Omaha offices, either.)

As to one promise the Commissioners gave away from voters and tax coffers - just look at this film from 6/12/08 - with Also Tesi, President of ES&S, at the CCBOE where he promised the county a $1.4M refund if ES&S's new equipment is not ready for the May,'09 election (we're slated to rent 1500 of the 10-year old optical scan equipment, the M-100s, in November, (and buy 15 of the 15-year old central count scanners that stay) then ship back the 1500, to buy 1500 new scanners, DS200's, when they're ready!!)

Once you've watched Tesi's 6/12/08 guarantees, now check out below what the Commissioners "negotiatied" - did for their vendor and party buddies. (The SoS has also been on record as wanting ES&S equipment in Cuyahoga - seemingly to lead the way for the entire state's conversion to them. And if you read her $1.9M EVEREST Report, and her 80 page Executive Summary, you'll find among her "recommendations" that she was already recommending ES&S equipment statewide early last December, but that her wishes have nothing to do with any of the scientific findings which show no better quality, NOR any less potential for inside manipulation of ballot counts - even with paper ballots.)
From page 15 of the ES&S contract, as negotiated/or at least approved by the Commissioners (with PLJ dissenting - which he seemed to be doing more of as he began his re-election campaign); Exhibit A-1, Pricing Summary:
"3. If County leases MIOO's for November 4, 2008 General Election, with the
intention of purchasing new DS200's in 2009, and if the DS200's are not certified by the Election Assistance Commission (if required by Ohio law or the Ohio Secretary of State) and the Ohio Secretary of State by January 1, 2010, then Vendor shall refund the County the sum of $1,425,000 ( highlights, mine) and, in addition, Vendor shall lease to the County, free of charge, up to 1,500 MIOO's for each election occurring in 2009 prior to the date which Vendor is able to provide the County with DS200's that are certified by the Election Assistance Commission (if required by Ohio law or the Ohio Secretary of State) and the Ohio Secretary of State. The foregoing refund of $1,425,000 shall not be due the County, however, in the event the Ohio Secretary of State rules before January 1, 2010 that theDS200's must be certified in accordance with standards and requirements that deviate from the 2002 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines and/or in accordance with any or all of the 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines such that the deviation would require recertification by the Election Assistance Commission or the Secretary of State. Equipment must be certified by the Election Assistance Commission (if required by Ohio law or the Ohio Secretary of State) and the Ohio Secretary of State and delivered to the CCBOE Warehouse sixty (60) days prior to any Election.

Given the extra year from their original firm guarantee, it's almost certain that Tesi won't have to write that check back into Cuyahoga coffers... But will he write another check to some others for such a favor? We'll never know. (I'll cover more about the other concessions ES&S seems to expect from the SoS, and much else about this contract the Commissioners "negotiated" in a later post.)

Bottom line, it would be foolish to think that the even the big current FBI raids and drama are separate from the politics, and that the politics are separate from this great show of justice. Bottom line, it would be foolish to think that just one of the Commissioners is involved, or just a few appointees are the ring leaders, and that this whole movement will really get to the bottom of the deals and favors and nepotism that runs this county and this state, along with our elections - including possibly helping to determine who our next county, state and federal "leaders" will be - giving the statement of "as Ohio goes, so goes the nation" a whole new meaning.

Despite all the drama, and nasty and possibly only-portions-of-truth facts that may yet unfold in this huge, and curiously-timed Cuyahoga corruption drama - the largest county of the state of Ohio - it seems we here most probably will remain a ripe wedge of moving the nation toward greater corruption, unless we all stop following the each drama put before us, one after another, and hoping that getting rid of one "leader" will allow room for the hopeful ones to lead us better - while we go away and leave them alone again.

I won't be covering here more on these Cuyahoga raids, and partisan fighting, and bipartisan joining in how to grab more of our power. You can find it elsewhere in the mainstream news.
But please, don't believe that the FBI and lawyers are going to make things all better here or in Columbus; and that it's all one party's fault or the other's. This is a strong signal, and a wake up call, that it's time for all citizens to take just a little responsibility to watch and participate and look out for the best for all of us, and look systemically - not buy into the "get more for me" that plays out in us and before us.
Letting a few alone to make decisions that they then weave stories about for us believe are "for our good" - continuing to just blindly follow, believe and honor anyone in an already tainted system, never has, and never will work. The writers of our Constitution (remember that?) even knew it. It's our system. We must take some responsibility for getting it clean for the whole of us, and maintaining it.

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