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Publisher Axes Editor, Usurps Crown

Et tu, Randy? Staffers at the Cleveland Free Times arrived at work Monday morning to find that Editor Tom Vasich had been given the heave-ho by Publisher Randy Siegel. The firing comes just nine months after Vasich, late of the Colorado Springs Independent, took the helm and six months after Siegel regaled his staff over lunch at Nighttown with glowing predictions for the coming year. But Vasich did not develop strong support within the paper and apparently hurt his standing with Siegel by championing art critic Frank Green, who single-handedly sabotaged the paper's relationship with the Cleveland Museum of Art. Vasich may be just the first in line out the door. An editorial staff member quit on Tuesday, two more are said to be shopping their résumés, and employees from other departments are whining miserably around town. For the moment, Siegel has conferred upon himself the princely title of Editor and Publisher, exposing his longtime weakness for meddling with the paper's editorial content. Neither Vasich nor Siegel returned calls. But the prickly question now is how all this sits with New York owner Stern Publishing, whose president is due in town this week.

Funny number of the week: RTA's claim that 673,000 patrons rode the Waterfront Line, the ghost train that clanks through the Flats, over the past year. RTA spokesman Dan Minnich defends the number as "actual riders," despite all the empty cars. "When you break the ridership down on a per-hour basis, the numbers add up," he says. So do the tax subsidies.

Forget the shell game with the columnists and snazzy "Morning briefing" on page two. The surest sign that new Plain Dealer Editor Doug Clifton means business came in a memo posted over his signature last week announcing the reassignment of Recruiting and Development Editor Maxine Lynch, who is moving as a loaned executive to United Way. For years, Lynch has been the gateway to new editorial hires at The PD, and as one reporter laments, "We'll never know who we might have gotten if not for her screw-ups." Prospective hires would spend hours on the infamous purple couches outside Lynch's office awaiting an interview and never knew what might happen afterward: A plane ticket home to the wrong city. An unwanted reference call to their current employer. A job offer at the Lorain bureau that turned out to be at the Medina bureau. Lynch enjoyed the political support of PD executive and close friend Tom Grier, but the situation had grown so bad that one reporter complained to Clifton, "The only people hired here are either desperate or have family in Cleveland." Lynch, who is being replaced by Metro Assistant Managing Editor Ted Diadiun, is currently on vacation. She hits the grueling charity circuit August 16.

There's no truth to the ugly rumor that the muny parking lot opposite Burke Lakefront Airport will remain closed until 4 p.m. on September 12, the day of the Browns' home opener, according to Mayoral Press Secretary Nancy Lesic. But she allows that plans for the lot are under discussion, raising the troubling question of whether City Hall will try to interfere with Clevelanders' God-given right to spend twelve hours tailgating their way into a drunken frenzy. The smell of roast pig in the Lake Erie gale . . . scores of fans urinating in public . . . trash piles bigger than Big Dawg's big butt . . . yee-haw, football is back!

Bad bounces and hot tips to edge@clevescene.com.

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