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Pyro Politico Lights Up Law Lackeys

Firepower! Imperial Mayor Mike White delivered one of his inimitable pep talks last week to the city law department, after articles appeared in The Plain Dealer questioning the department's competence. With a dramatic flourish, His Highness produced one of the offending articles and set it on fire, reducing it to ashes before the astonished attorneys. "The mayor told them they shouldn't let the stories get to them," says spokeswoman Nancy Lesic. "He said he understood how it felt to be the subject of negative stories and wanted to make sure it did not affect their morale." Never mind that White is the one responsible for gutting the law department, driving off high-caliber talent with his dictatorial control, and diverting high-priced legal work to friends like Fred Nance and Bob Duvin. But who could imagine he'd get so literal about playing with fire?

Best sideshow to the upcoming Sheppard trial: The tiff between author James Neff and Cuyahoga County prosecutors, who want a look at everything he's collected over the past 10 years for Chasing the Fugitive, his book on the Sheppard case. Specifically, prosecutors are after missing homicide files and other evidence they believe Neff has. As a result of interviews he conducted with new suspect Richard Eberling, Neff is also on Sheppard lawyer Terry Gilbert's witness list, and prosecutors have subpoenaed him to find out what he's going to say. Neff is fighting the whole shebang with legal help from Baker & Hostetler heavy David Marberger and moral support from national journalism organizations. Closer to home, Neff's alma mater, The Plain Dealer, has been oddly silent on the troubling prospect of prosecutors rooting through reporters' notes.

The Free Times has been sold again, this time as part of a seven-newspaper package that includes The Village Voice and alternative weeklies in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Minneapolis. An investment group led by Weiss, Peck & Greer, a private venture capital firm, bought the papers from Stern Publishing for an estimated $160 million. (Full disclosure: New Times, the owner of this publication, also bid on the package.) Two days after the deal was signed, the new owners "cut losses" by shutting down one of the papers, The Long Island Voice. Rumors while the bidding was in progress had the Free Times on the chopping block as well, but the Coventry crusaders are in the pink, so to speak. "It's business as usual," chirps one staffer. We'll count on that.

How trendy can the Flats get? So trendy that even a cutting-edge gallery like Spaces is feeling threatened by new development these days. The dark shadow is being cast by Stonebridge, an upscale, tax-abated apartment complex that will radically alter the geography and character of the Superior Viaduct, particularly if plans to close the West 25th Street entrance to the viaduct reach fruition. That will cut off the main access to the gallery and put a serious squeeze on parking, already a sore point around the crumbling causeway. "People have been parking illegally on the viaduct for years," charges Doug Price, lead partner in the project, which will provide new spaces for the influx of tenants. But not enough, worries gallery director Susan Channing, who also laments the lost views: "It would change the nature of the viaduct completely." Just wait until the Starbucks arrives.

Lattes and hot tips to edge@clevescene.com.

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