Cuyahoga County Cleans House at Board of Revision

The place to work if you dont like to, you know, work.
  • The place to work if you don't like to, you know, work.

It was just a week ago that the Plain Dealer ran an investigation of Tom Bush, a member of the board of revision who was working a second job at a radio station while putting in just a few hours at his "full-time" job with the county.

Bush copped to the allegations and resigned earlier this week. Subsequent investigations show a number of employees have been putting in part-time hours for full-time pay even as the office experiences a backlog of up to a year on pending complaints and cases filed by taxpayers disputing value assessments levied the auditor's office.

County Commissioners seemed genuinely surprised at the allegations, not just those directed at Tom Bush, but at other board of revision employees. For example, the PD reported that Brigid O'Malley, another full-time employee paid for an 8-hour work day, logged fewer than 4.5 hours a day in the office according to analysis of parking garage records. Like Bush, O'Malley earns $64,000 a year.

On Thursday the county cleaned house. While no employees were fired, three were moved to different county departments. Administrator Robert Chambers, his office manager, and a clerk were shifted to other offices as the county focuses in on yet another poorly run, poorly managed, and corrupt department.

According to today's PD report:

Also Thursday, Sheriff Bob Reid announced the expansion of his criminal probe of the work habits of two board of revision members and will now look at all 12 members of the county's four boards. Reid said he decided to expand the probe because of stories in The Plain Dealer showing that some board members did not appear to be in the office full-time.

One board member admitted to the Plain Dealer last week that he had worked a part-time job on county time for years. He resigned Monday.

Thursday's changes were announced by county commissioners, Auditor Frank Russo and a representative of Treasurer Jim Rokakis, who gathered to consider how to reform the boards of revision. The boards serve a vital government function: considering challenges to the assessed values of homes, businesses and other property by people seeking to lower their taxes. Board decisions can save taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Rather than replace Chambers with another full-time administrator, the commissioners, auditor and treasurer appointed a three-member committee to share supervision of the boards of revision. One of the first goals of the three appointees will be creating office policies that remove potential for abuse or fraud and ensure that staff members work the hours for which they are paid.

Two years later, numerous investigations by the Plain Dealer, shamed and discredited Sheriffs and officials already out of jobs, the FBI digging into just about every employee, and the county is still dealing with trying to get staffers to "work the hours for which they are paid."

What is clear after what feels like 37 different corruption stories is that no one in the county appears to pay attention or hold accountable anyone else who works for the county. That's a helluva system.

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