Take Jacqui Romer-Sensky, former director of the state Department of Job and Family Services. She came to the job after the building of a $60 million computer system that never actually worked. Yet she continued to steer multimillion-dollar, no-bid contracts to Andersen Consulting, makers of the system and, coincidentally, her former employer.
Romer-Sensky left her post in 2001, after Governor Taft made it clear her performance was worse than even he could handle. But two years ago, Cuyahoga County -- where ineptitude and corruption are highly coveted -- hired her consulting company, The JRS Group, to evaluate its Invest in Children program.
It's not clear what she actually did for the program, since success is never an issue with the county. But a new contract proposes to pay her $1,500 a day for "consultation" and "facilitation." At least she won't be loose stealing your kid's bicycle.
The parallel universe
Speaking of the county, Fred Ferguson should be thankful he lives in this parallel universe.
The 6-foot-9, 280-pound Ferguson, a former guard at the Juvenile Detention Center, was caught on a security camera last June throwing around a 17-year-old boy like a stress doll. A month earlier, Ferguson broke up a fight involving a 16-year-old boy -- ironically, by beating the crap out of that kid too.
He was charged with felonious assault and endangering children for the incidents, and his trial was set to begin before Judge Carolyn Friedland two weeks ago. But luckily for Ferguson, the two boys he assaulted failed to show. One suffers from a serious mental illness and had been committed to a psych ward the previous night, says Wendy Clawson, spokeswoman for Prosecutor Bill Mason.
Back in the alternative universe known as the real world, a normal judge would have delayed the case to give the kid time to recuperate. After all, one beating was caught on video, so the case didn't rely solely on his testimony. But Friedland dismissed the case anyway, then went on vacation. Her bailiff says she won't return until next week.
Presiding in her absence will be Willy the Wonder Gerbil, who will render decisions based on whether you pet him and bring cheese.
Doing nothing: Job 1
Ohio legislators are on spring break this week. Florida authorities should be on the lookout for middle-aged guys with comb-overs who look suspiciously like participants in a senior golf tour -- or perhaps a roving band of sex offenders.
But at least the party girls back in Ohio can rest easier. The hiatus leaves legislators with little time to take up the "Stripper Bill," which would ban lap dances, force strip joints to close at midnight, and kill the lifelong dreams of women named Delicious.
The pet project of Citizens for Community Values has been coming up for years. Last year, it was shut down by lawmakers who, after being afflicted by a rare bout of cognitive stability, suddenly realized that killing the state's one thriving industry wasn't especially bright.
But CCV, having successfully banned everything gay, is running out of things to do -- so it gathered 220,000 signatures to get the bill in the legislature.
Now, with a May 2 deadline to pass the bill, lawmakers once again are trying to balance their devotion to naked women with their fear of CCV, which has threatened retribution against those who don't support the bill. (Support our bill, traitorous scum! Or we will force you to watch a complete season of Seventh Heaven!)
But the legislature has discovered a defense perfectly tailored to its strengths: doing nothing.
"I don't want to jinx it," says Angelina Spencer, president of a strip-club trade group. But it looks like they'll run out of time -- forcing CCV to quickly collect thousands more signatures to get on the November ballot.
"Year after year after year, this topic comes up again," Spencer says. "It's a gross waste of taxpayer money."
The Wolstein Plot
The battle for the East Bank of the Flats has entered its seventh month in court, with no end in sight.
Developer Scott Wolstein wants more land for his $230 million housing and retail project, and accuses neighboring landowners of being greedy and standing in the way of progress.
His neighbors, however, accuse Wolstein of lowballing his offers, knowing all along that he could use the city and the Port Authority to steal their land by eminent domain.
Judge John Corrigan desperately wants the parties to settle, but he'll likely be forced to decide the eminent domain issue. At the heart of the matter is whether Wolstein negotiated in good faith.
Unfortunately for him, there's evidence he was plotting to take the land all along. It comes from Crossing the Road to Entrepreneurship, a book published by his late father Bert three years ago. The elder Wolstein writes that the Flats need a single owner if they're to be revitalized, and confesses that the "city will have to use eminent domain to purchase the land Scott and I don't already control."
Neighbors still hope to negotiate, but as shoplifters and developers have known all along, stealing is always the easier route.