Nearly a year after it began, the federal corruption probe entered new regions of Cuyahoga County’s stinky bowels on Friday.
Add to the six Cleveland building inspectors already accused of taking bribes yet another assortment of alleged opportunists — this time a group much higher up the ladder of Dirty River’s old establishment. This time around, the probe’s highest targets can’t feign ignorance any longer.
J. Kevin Kelley, an ex-Parma school board president and IT manager for the county engineer and auditor — and a self-avowed buddy of the top corruption targets, county auditor Frank Russo and county commissioner and county Dem boss Jimmy Dimora — was charged by federal prosecutors with conspiracy, public corruption, bribery, mail fraud and tax violations for allegedly aiming lucrative contracts at developers who lavished him and others with lavish trips and meals, as well as hundreds in “personal services” fees to pad their guilty consciences.
Two other ex-leaders in the county engineer’s office, Daniel Gallagher (another Dimora and Russo bud) and Kevin Payne, the engineer’s office chief of staff, face corruption and conspiracy charges in U.S. District Court too. Brian Schuman, an ex-bailiff in Bedford Municipal Court, who also worked for Alternatives Agency, a Cleveland halfway house where J. Kevin Kelley was a consultant.
The court documents reveal numerous schemes by high-perched county executives to gain exclusivity for their friends.
In the Alternatives Agency matter, prosecutors allege Kelley was bribing unnamed public officials with vacation trips in return for a $250,000 contract secured through county commissioners for Alternatives Agency.
Contracts awarded for work on the county’s new computer network, a Snow Road resurfacing, the juvenile justice center and Stonebride condos are also under scrutiny. Also according to the filing made by federal prosecutors, Kelley, Gallagher and Payne accepted thousands of dollars of kickbacks in return for steering $5.26 million in contracts for the county’s new GIS computer system. Kelley also allegedly lined up for him and his buddies other kickbacks for a $1.8 million contract he was able to steer through when he led the Parma school board.