Summit finally acknowledges that something's wrong at its animal shelter.

Missing Juice 

Summit finally acknowledges that something's wrong at its animal shelter.

When we last spoke with Summit County Executive James McCarthy ["House of Horrors," October 22], he was denying allegations that county animal-shelter employees were staging dogfights, starving cats, slaughtering about-to-be-adopted pets, and otherwise behaving like really sick bastards.

"They've launched this personal attack against my workers," he railed at the time. "I'm mad about it! No one is sympathetic to these government employees."

But it appears that McCarthy has changed his tune.

After months of stonewalling, the county finally made public records involving the shelter's use of sodium pentobarbital -- aka Blue Juice -- a drug used to euthanize animals. When Citizens for Humane Animal Practices compared the records to similar documents released last May, members found that 65 alterations had been made, meaning that someone had gotten creative with the Wite-Out.

Now it just so happens that sodium pentobarbital can be used as a downer by human beings, "especially in liquid form," says the DEA's Rogene Waite. And it just so happens that altering records of its use is a felony.

So last week, McCarthy turned the documents over to the Sheriff's Department for investigation. Though he has thus far ignored evidence that his employees like to torture furry creatures for pleasure, it looks as if he'll have a much harder time making the drug thing go away.

Commit your crimes now!
If you're poor and plan to commit some minor holiday crimes, you'd better hurry up and get busted before the new year -- while you can still get a free lawyer.

The Legal Aid Society contracts with the Public Defender's office to represent indigent people charged with misdemeanors. Its 12 lawyers are required to wear cheap suits and the agonized expression that comes from a diet of up to 70 clients per day. Considering that they handle 35,000 cases a year on a budget of roughly $1.6 million annually, the society is a model of efficiency.

Some decision makers, however, are unimpressed. Legal Aid's contract with the city expired on November 1. Since then, the agency has been operating on the good-faith notion that, because Cleveland's justice system needs Legal Aid, city council will have to renew the contract.

But sources say that if it doesn't happen by the first of '04, Legal Aid will fold. In its place, the justice system will have to either rely on the Cuyahoga County Public Defender's office, which is not prepared to handle the huge influx of clients, or hope that private attorneys will take on indigent clients for the everyday low price of $60 per case, which is like asking Metallica to play your daughter's confirmation party.

All of which means that the indigent may end up defending themselves, a prospect that sends a collective shudder through the ranks of Cleveland's judiciary. Municipal courtrooms that today move at a turtle's pace would grind to a complete halt. "This," predicts one attorney, "is going to be a complete disaster."

Away with the manger
Punch is deeply offended by the nativity scene on Public Square. Not because it's a blatant promotion of religion on public land, but because it is without question the homeliest depiction of Christ's birth that Punch has ever beheld.

That the almost-life-sized figures are made of cheap plastic is only the start. Joseph resembles a toga-clad Allman brother, the lone shepherd has a glorious mane of helmet hair that melds seamlessly with his ABBA-worthy beard, and the garishly arrayed wise men are truly pimpalicious. (Joseph also strongly resembles an adult Jesus, which raises theological dilemmas Punch isn't prepared to address.)

Oh, and Baby Jesus sports a red knit cap, probably donated by a concerned citizen -- but that's no more out of place than the "Happy Hanukkah" and "Happy Kwanzaa" signs that flank the makeshift stable.

Nose out of joint
Free Times editor David Eden has a new obsession: Bashing PR guy Bruce Hennes. Last week, Hennes showed up twice in The Nose, Eden's anonymous playground, in which he taunts his enemies by assigning them uninventive nicknames.

First, Hennes got attacked for accepting $9,000 from the RTA to coach officials on how to deal with reporters. The rip is somewhat disingenuous, since it was the RTA, not Hennes, that chose to blow the money. (Besides, Eden himself is a former PR guy who used to work for such titans of morality as Forest City and Blue Cross.)

Next, Eden got on his high horse about Hennes's wife, The Plain Dealer's Regina Brett, who recently wrote a column favorable to Mayor Jane Campbell. Eden claimed that Hennes "has close contacts to the current administration." In other words, Hennes secretly got his wife to pimp for the mayor.

Keeping with Free Times house rules, however, neither Hennes nor Brett were called for comment, since that would have ruined the thesis.

Hennes says it's all bull. "I have no idea why suddenly, out of the blue, I'm his piñata," he says.

One possible reason for Eden's obsession may be found in his 1997 Beachwood mayoral campaign. Not only did Eden get hammered by incumbent Merle Gorden, but he was humiliated in the process.

When Eden attacked Gorden with his customary vitriol, Gorden's campaign circulated a letter Eden had written that fawned over the mayor's many attributes, leaving Eden to play the role of hypocrite. He received just 500 votes out of 5,000 cast.

Now it just so happens that Hennes was a volunteer on Gorden's campaign. Six years later, he can't remember whether he had a role in publicizing the letter, but it's enough to make him the new piñata. The only question: Can he surpass division-leader Bill Mason as Eden's favorite target? Punch tried to get Eden's take on the matter, but he did not respond to our interview request.

Sex behind bars
Earlier this year, Scene reported on the misadventures at the Northeast Pre-Release Center, where an unusually high number of prison employees had been disciplined for having sex with female inmates. Even the investigator charged with examining sexual abuse by guards was under investigation for sexual harassment ["Authority Problem," March 12, and "Fox in the Jailhouse?," August 6].

Now the same issues are being raised at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marion. The national group Stop Prisoner Rape claims that, according to three whistleblowers, ORW staffers keep a mattress in the boiler room for sexual escapades with inmates, that a unit manager received oral sex from an inmate in his office, that one therapist had a picture of a nude inmate in his office, and that consensual sex between guards and inmates is common.

Misbehaving guards are rarely prosecuted, the group further asserts. One investigator sometimes took home forensic evidence and then claimed to have lost it. And an unwritten policy of "screw up and move up" dictates that staff members caught in trysts are often transferred to more desirable positions, the group maintains.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction disputes the accusations.

"Whenever employees are involved in inappropriate relationships, the appropriate discipline is rendered," says ODRC spokeswoman Andrea Dean. "And I want to emphatically refute that there is a mattress in a boiler room. There is not. It offends me that a group would infer that we allow this type of behavior, because we do not."

Prices so low, they're Zany
The seasonal toy-retailing wars heated up early this year, with Wal-Mart and Target trading blows with prices marked below wholesale cost. Their battle has resulted in increasingly hard times for smaller toy stores trying to stay competitive. But amid all the big-box slashing, one small operator has devised a clever new means of luring customers: going broke.

Zany Brainy, along with its beleaguered parent company FAO, has filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time this year. Its last filing, in January, led to a small flood of bargain-hunting shoppers and the closing of Zany Brainy's Fairlawn store. This time around, the company showed the good sense to tank during the Christmas rush, taking advantage of shoppers' bloodlust for deals.

Last weekend, both the Mayfield and Center Ridge locations were packed with shoppers taking advantage of 10 to 20 percent discounts storewide. Analysts predict that more drastic price cuts in coming days could lead to fisticuffs at the Playmobil display.

"I know it'll be insanely crazy," says Shane Rotkis, a Lakewood mother and Zany Brainy fan in mourning. Rotkis plans to hold off her spree till reductions hit 40 percent; her friends have announced similar strategies. No date has been set for the stores' shuttering.

Good losers
When The Washington Post wrote about members of the so-called "creative class" moving to places where they feel more loved, the paper focused on two cities that know a little bit about population shifts: Cleveland and Seattle. Once again, our fair burg was cast in the role of loser.

One city's "brain drain" is another city's "brain gain," the Post noted, and offered as evidence a venture capitalist named Sam Long. A Cleveland native who earned his MBA at Case Western Reserve, Long bolted for Seattle in 1992, though not to start a band whose members don't shower very often (those guys still stay in Cleveland). "Long is part of an elite intercity migration that is rapidly remaking the way American cities rise and fall," said the Post. "Now, talented individuals are voting with their feet to live in cities where the work is smart, the culture is cool and the environment is clean."

But when contacted by Punch, Long went out of his way to say nice things about his hometown. Seattle simply offered more of the "entrepreneurial environment," he explained.

But would he move back? "It's not something I think about. I would not necessarily fight going back to Cleveland, if some turn of events put that in my path."

Unfortunately, "C'mon, would it kill you to live here?" is not the kind of sentiment you can build a marketing campaign around.

On the (almost) bright side, the Post noted that Cleveland "has probably tried harder -- and achieved more -- than any other major brain-drain city." Translation: At least we're good at being losers.

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