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The Edge 

The Best Story You'll Never Read
If there's anyone in town who can make things happen with a single phone call, it's political godfather Sam Miller. But apparently Miller didn't need to kill a Cleveland Magazine story on the Medical Mutual fiasco. Publisher Lute Harmon seems to have fumbled it nicely on his own. Miller's role in this sorry chapter in Cleveland journalism dates back to mid-December, when he reportedly called Harmon to inquire about the status of the piece. At that point, Senior Editor Audrey Chapman had spent more than a year investigating the abortive effort to sell the company and make its executives multimillionaires. Miller, installed on the Medical Mutual board by then-Governor George Voinovich to run damage control, first raised the specter of legal action in his phone call to Harmon, then offered to pay Chapman's salary if he deep-sixed the story. Harmon turned him down. Miller, who still sits on the Medical Mutual board, now says he never tried to choke the story. "Not true," he growls. "I don't have any right to. That's why we have freedom of the press." Harmon remembers a phone call from Miller, though of a slightly different nature. "Sam said to me, 'Would you do me a favor, and let us know when you're going to run the story?' I said, 'Sam, if it ever gets to that point, I'll let you know.'" But it seems likely there will never be a full accounting of the fiasco that cost policyholders an estimated $50 million. Chapman's story has grown well beyond magazine-length and, according to Harmon, is rife with legal problems. "The attorneys want a big sum of money just to go over the goddamned thing," he says. Does that mean two years of work on the juiciest business story in town will go down the drain? "I don't know," confesses Harmon. "It's a great story. But we have to figure out what we're going to do. I don't have a clue."

Last week's federal court ruling against the city of Brunswick in its bluenosed battle against adult entertainment is going to cost that burg big-time. U.S. District Judge Ann Aldrich castrated the ordinance aimed at regulating Tiffany's Cabaret--a topless venue on Pearl Road--and ordered the city to pay the club $1,500 in lost revenues. But that's not the worst of it. Beatific Brunswick is also responsible for Tiffany's attorney fees. And lead club attorney Michael Murray says he will be filing for more than $100,000 in fees this week. Of course, it's only taxpayers' money--and there are plenty of billable hours left in the city's appeal.

British Petroleum has done a killer job of vacating jobs and office space, but will be leaving an even more monstrous legacy to Cleveland--the Brobdingnagian "Free Stamp" sculpture at East Ninth and Lakeside. BP never really wanted the sculpture, rejecting Claes Oldenberg's sly comment on corporate culture after commissioning the piece for its headquarters on Public Square. Not to worry about upkeep and maintenance, says BP art consultant Jane Tesso. "BP will keep its pledge to maintain it for a generation, to the year 2017," she says. How about this instead: Three whacks with a sledgehammer for $10.

Whacks and hot tips to edge@clevescene.com.


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