Danger Management 

The city invokes "safety" to spy on its workers.

With city government exclusively populated by kinder, gentler Democrats, one might presume they'd create a kinder, gentler workplace. But try telling that to the 100-odd clerks who process speeding tickets, DUIs, and misdemeanor assaults.

Data entry isn't what you'd call dangerous work. Yet Municipal Clerk of Courts Earle B. Turner has seen fit to install cameras to watch over his charges. It's for their own safety, he's told them time and again.

Though it makes sense to have security cams at the windows, where clerks must deal with the teeming masses, it seems a little Orwellian to have them in the back offices, where workers sift paper all day.

"I can't eat my lunch in peace!" says one clerk, who has a tiny ceiling camera pointed directly at her forehead.

Christine Macklin doesn't have to worry about cameras anymore. She's suing the clerk's office for wrongful termination after being fired for wearing short skirts to work. She says not only were cameras pointed directly at her at all times, but her supervisor told her to "watch what she does," because Criminal Division Director Ron Tabor, head of security Dwight Lacey, and Earl B. Turner himself watch employees' actions at odd hours.

Turner's P.R. man, George Yarbrough, says the cameras are set up for good reason. "We don't want to wait until something's happened to provide security. That would be reactive. We are proactive."

Macklin, who intends to use the video footage to show that she was not dressed inappropriately, asked the city to hand it over in discovery. Turner wrote her back, saying that it would be too expensive, since they've recently upgraded to more sophisticated equipment. Sounds like money well spent.

Lies & misdemeanors

On July 4th, thousands of Clevelanders will participate in the annual tradition of committing mass misdemeanors.

Contrary to popular belief, it's illegal to set off fireworks in Ohio. In fact, a first offense can get you up to six months in jail. The second time's a felony.

Fortunately, the people charged with arresting you aren't particularly interested in the legal nuances of celebratory explosions. Sergeant Elizabeth Burton of the Cleveland Police was thoroughly confused when asked what she would do if she witnessed someone lighting a Roman candle. "Without reading the law, I just don't know," she says. "But there are just hundreds of codes to look through."

The manager of the Fireworks Superstore in Sandusky, known only as "Whiskey," has a firm grasp of the law -- and its loopholes. Though it's illegal to set off fireworks in Ohio, for some strange reason it's perfectly legal to sell them.

Whiskey says that about half his customers come from Ohio. But they would never, ever set them off here. When asked where they go to play with their pyrotechnics, he's ready. "Vegas, I think. Or Missouri, Nevada."

Does he mean the two states, or a town called Missouri, Nevada?

"Missouri, Nevada," he repeats, sticking to his story.

Summer of love

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "All the world loves a lover." Sara Jay has the frequent-flier miles to prove it.

In the last month, she's crisscrossed the country, from the Big Apple to L.A. and all points in between. She arrived in Cleveland last weekend, much to the pleasure of her adoring "fans."

Ms. Jay -- for those of you not in the know -- is the star of such timeless cinema classics as Phat Azz White Girls 3, Buttfaced 3, and the exhilarating Big Boob Bangeroo 25. But what she was doing in Cleveland remains a mystery. Though her website lists a tour schedule, it offers no details on her stops, save for "booking" information.

One suspicious reader believes she's embarked on her own Summer of Love -- the kind where folks pay by the hour. "Your newspaper should have a full scale investigation of this lousy prostitution racket, unless you are cowards," wrote the anonymous tipster, who's apparently in the meatpacking business, since his email address is longthickmeat@yahoo.com.

Alas, Punch's attempts to interview the starlet were scuttled by a bad cell phone. So we were forced to content ourselves with Christmas shopping at Ms. Jay's online store, where you can score a used black thong for a mere $10 -- "33 percent off" the normal retail price!

Rough rider

Walter Case Jr. just can't kick his bad habits, whether it's abusing horses or his wife.

You may remember Case from last summer's cover story "Hard Case" (July 2, 2003). He's the second-winningest harness racer of all time, but also an inveterate horse-kicker -- his foot tends to slip out of the stirrup and give the horse a giddyup -- which has made him one of the most penalized drivers in harness history, as well as the Ace of Spades in PETA's Animal Abusers card deck. (Okay, we made the last part up.)

Last time we checked, Case was having a rough ride. He had just forfeited his Ohio racing license to avoid a six-month suspension for kicking and had been arrested for allegedly threatening his wife. Ultimately, he was convicted of disorderly conduct and sentenced to 90 days of work release. He was hoping a summer of good behavior might get him back in the saddle again.

Instead, Case hit rock bottom in record time, making him the winningest harness racer in Portage County Jail. Last week he was arrested for allegedly attacking his wife. Police say he punched and kicked her, then stabbed her with a steak knife, which left her with a collapsed lung. Case is charged with felonious assault and domestic violence.

Somewhere, a horse is saying, "I toldja so."

Brown DeLayed

You know how morons try to prove they're not bigots by claiming they have lots of black friends? It seems the same is true of Republican congressmen who wish to appear less like flaming ideologues.

Meet Tom DeLay, House majority leader and sociopath from Texas. He's known as "The Hammer" for his devoutly partisan ways. But since he's a little pencil-necked twerp, it's also a testament to the low nicknaming standards in Congress.

So imagine the surprise of left-leaning Lorain Congressman Sherrod Brown when he learned that DeLay had named him one of his close Democratic friends in Vanity Fair magazine.

Sure, Brown sees DeLay frequently in the House gym, but it's not like they get together and pound beers at pharmaceutical-industry junkets. "The most substantive conversation we have is 'What time are we beginning today?' or 'I see you've got your Washington Times,' something like that," says Brown.

They've never come close to discussing an issue. DeLay "works with Democrats even less than Newt Gingrich did," Brown says.

The hard part will be living this down in Lorain, where DeLay is as popular as Satan or Bill Cowher. "How do I explain this at home?" Brown jokes.

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