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Feds launch investigation into racism in Woodmere — and they've got ammo 

Last fall, we brought you tales of a weirdness from Woodmere City Hall ["Racism Reversed," October 22, 2007]. It seems that a few years back, police chief LaMont Lockhart started noticing a disturbing pattern: Mayor Yolanda Broadie was treating white employees much worse than black ones, doling out uneven punishments and giving raises only to black staff.

"This is a black community," one cop quoted the mayor as saying, "and I only want black people working here."

So in 2004, two white officers filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming they'd been fired for possessing undercooked pigmentation. The EEOC ruled in their favor; Lockhart testified on their behalf.

That's when the chief, who's black, found that the mayor's wrath wasn't restricted to whitey. She took away his patrol-car privileges and suspended him for allegedly shoddy paperwork. But the chief, a straight arrow with a handsome reputation in cop circles, didn't take it lying down. He quit and filed his own beef with the EEOC, claiming Broadie was retaliating.

Strangely enough, the feds seemed to notice a pattern here. So the U.S. Justice Department sued Woodmere, claiming it was doing an illegal impression of George Wallace. The town was ordered to hand over all personnel files.

Yet Broadie appears to think she's still playing by Ohio rules: If I ignore them, they'll just go away. At first she refused to hand over documents, then finally relented with incomplete paperwork. The feds, quite naturally, took that to mean that Woodmere had something to hide.

So last week, they sent Broadie a letter: Fork over the goods, sister, or we get a court order to search your home.

No word yet on what agents will retrieve from that burn barrel behind the mayor's house. But be assured, people of Woodmere: Before this is over, the mayor will be running up a humongous legal tab. Punch advises you to make operative plans to sneak out the bathroom window before the check arrives at your table.

Tour de Misery
Realtors tend to be competitive people. Amplify that by 10, and you have RE/MAX's Al Stasek.

According to his bio, Al's been a "fierce competitor" since birth. "Whether it was dominating tennis matches or how many pizzas [he] could deliver in one night," Stasek always played to win. So while his colleagues are whining into their pineapple mojitos, commiserating over the collapse of the housing market, Al has found a way to score.

He calls it the Cleveland Short Sale & Foreclosed Home Bus Tour. Think of it as spending Saturday morning hitting up garage sales. For 15 bones (which includes lunch!), Al will narrate a tour of 10 to 20 foreclosed homes on the West Side, providing access to a mortgage broker and a home inspector so you can launch bids en route to the next house.

Stasek says the tour is more than a benefit for the Al Stasek Personal Advancement Fund. A portion of his cut will go to Rainbow Babies and Children's. And if Al scores, Cleveland scores.

"We need to get people in these houses," he says. "And we need to be proactive about it."

Marketing Cleveland
Downtown cheerleaders have been drooling over the new townhomes and lofts rising on Superior, St. Clair, and East 12th Street. Developer Nathan Zaremba's Avenue District has been touted as a long-awaited chance to bring homeowners — the kind who can spring for a $350,000 two-bedroom — to the central city.

Yet the latest brochure doesn't actually promote downtown, at least in the literal sense. "Picture the perfect summer evening in Cleveland," one breathless passage begins. "After arriving home from a long day at work, you pour yourself a drink, head to the sofa . . . The breeze blows in as you relax to the hum of the city."

The accompanying photo features a sun-drenched loft, high windows, and views of lush trees and cozy white houses down the street. It all sounds swell to Punch. Just one question: Where exactly do you find lush trees and cozy white houses . . . on East 12th?

The fine print at the bottom of the page appears to offer a clue: "All pictures may not be of Downtown Cleveland."

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