Pennies for Pork

DeWine helps you by helping himself. Or something like that.

Mike DeWine
With his approval rating hovering near Eric Snow's scoring average, U.S. Senator Mike DeWine is bragging up the pork he's bringing home. But his efforts seem more designed to aid Mike DeWine than Northeast Ohio.

The senator boasts of scoring a $3 million defense contract for STERIS, which isn't exactly a Buckeye loyalist. In 2001, the company closed its Medina plant, eliminating 100 jobs by consolidating production in Alabama. Two years later, it agreed to add 74 full-time tech jobs within three years -- but only in exchange for a 10-year tax credit.

At least STERIS is proving that ingenuity is alive and well in Ohio. In exchange for the $3 million contract, the company kicked DeWine's campaign $22,000 over the past five years. Return on investment: $2.978 million.

Speaking of whores . . .
Governor Bob Taft rang in the New Year by doling out more patronage jobs. By expanding the Ohio State University board from 9 to 12, Taft was able to appoint three new members -- two of whom had shoveled a combined $1.3 million into Republican coffers.

The announcement came a day after The Toledo Blade disclosed that 80 percent of the 250 trustees appointed by Taft and former Governor George Voinovich had made political contributions amounting to $3 million, most of it going to the GOP.

"If you're breathing and have written a check to Bob Taft, that probably qualifies you to be a university trustee," says state Senator Marc Dann (D-Liberty Township).

He's authored a bill that would require trustees to live in the community in which the school is located, or at least be a graduate or a professor. It would also prohibit former legislators and lobbyists from being appointed for three years after they leave their jobs.

"We need people at the conference tables who spent the night before at the kitchen table trying to figure out how to send their kids to college," says Dann.

But since the bill might improve Ohio's universities, it has no chance of passing.

Wife-beaters unite!
Though Republicans have taken an insurmountable lead in the Patronage Standings, Cuyahoga County Recorder Pat O'Malley refuses to give up the fight. He recently hired Nelson Cintron, who served as Cleveland's first Hispanic councilman before embarrassing his ward by being accused of beating his wife, abusing his girlfriend, and owning a bar cited for drug use.

It would seem a natural alliance of sensitive men. O'Malley's ex-wife also accuses him of beating, choking, and raping her -- allegations he denies.

But a closer look reveals that Cintron's hiring was merely old-fashioned patronage. He worked in the recorder's office before winning a council seat, so O'Malley hired him back at the same salary. Of course, the job wasn't advertised, nor were other candidates interviewed.

What, you thought public jobs were actually available to the public?

"He just knows how our office runs," O'Malley explains.

He certainly does.

Good man crushed
State Senator Jeff Armbruster (R-North Ridgeville) is trying to do something for the people of Ohio, which means the legislature isn't interested.

Ohio is one of only four states that doesn't require health insurers to cover diabetes, leaving 380,000 residents with the prospect of going broke or receiving substandard care if a family member becomes ill.

So for six years, Armbruster has pushed to ensure coverage. "You don't think those people are asking their insurance companies for diabetes coverage?" But for six years, Republican colleagues have given him the Heisman.

His problems would go away if diabetes groups could see fit to send a duffel bag of unmarked bills to the statehouse. But since their fund-raising goes to find a cure, they're no match for insurance and business lobbyists, whose checks hold the virtue of far more zeroes.

The game's called Family Values: Ohio Edition. You wanna see a doctor, Little Timmy? Pony up.

Historical fiction
David Fincher, acclaimed director of Fight Club and Seven, plans to reconstruct the tale of Safety Director Eliot Ness and his hunt for Cleveland's notorious torso killer.

Fincher hopes to make Torso, to be released next year, as historically accurate as possible, conveying the mood and fears of 1930s Cleveland. Which, of course, is why shooting begins later this year . . . in California.

True lies
In the new romance novel Nothing Personal, Carlo Batista, a gay Cuban Democrat, beats out an older, conservative opponent for an Ohio congressional seat on a platform calling for equal rights. That's why they call it fiction. Had Batista lost by 73 percent, and then been gummed to death by a feral pack of Cincinnati Baptists, it might be more realistic.

But co-author Scott Pomfret, who claims to have visited Columbus "numerous times" and Shaker Heights "once," argues that the plot is entirely plausible.

"It's going to take a unity between lots of different, untraditionally liberal coalitions for that [to happen in Ohio], but it could," he insists from his apartment in Boston.

Education arms race
Cleveland State refuses to fall behind its Ivy League competition.

The latest battle began when Harvard, a small but apparently prestigious school in Massachusetts, started the trend of hiring failed Cleveland leaders. Researchers there determined that students were "already well acquainted with the elements of success," but had yet to distinguish "the ingredients of abject failure." So the school hired ousted Mayor Jane Campbell to teach a class entitled "How to Suck at Running a City While Maintaining Bouncy Yet Manageable Hair."

Not to be outdone, CSU, long regarded as "the Harvard of the 2100 Block of Euclid," recently tapped disgraced schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett as an "executive in residence." Jay McLoughlin, dean of the education school, says Bennett will help develop curriculum and use her national contacts to raise money, recruit, and discuss school reform. She'll also lead a forum called "How to Increase Your Enrollment by 275 Percent With One Stroke of the Keyboard."

CSU sources say they're not done pumping Cleveland's Well of Failure. Among the names being floated for faculty jobs are Mike White, Butch Davis, and the asshole who designed the I-90 on-ramp by the Jake.

If Timothy Hess tries to sell you advertising, beware!

Teresa and Frank Ciaralli, who just opened the Classic Diner on Madison Avenue, say Hess promised to sell them two years' worth of ads in Scene, the Sun newspapers, and The Plain Dealer, and on Adelphia Cable. He claimed that the papers and Adelphia gave him the ads in exchange for his web-hosting services.

Against their better judgment, the Ciarallis coughed up $200.

But when no Adelphia cameraman showed for an ad shoot, the couple called the phone number on their contract. It was fake. So was the address. "I've never come across anybody like this before," says Frank. "He's just outright stealing people's money."

Hess says the accusations are bogus, and claims that he wasn't selling ads for Scene, but rather Scenic Magazine, a restaurant guide. He also claims that Frank Ciaralli harassed his wife and left threatening messages on his cell phone. Which, of course, would be the logical response to being ripped off.

Yet Vance Linamen is especially interested in mention of Hess' wife. He works at the Hilltopper Athletic Complex on Brookpark Road, where Hess ran a flea market. One day, Hess broke down crying, saying that his wife had been killed by a tractor-trailer on I-480. Hess told Linamen that he needed $200 to transport her body to the funeral home, so Linamen set up a collection jar.

Upon hearing the news that Hess' wife is still very much breathing, Linamen sputters, "What? His wife's not dead?"

The persistent Hess, however, refuses to give up the scam. "I have no clue what he's talking about," he says. "They didn't take no collection for anything for me."

In the meantime, anyone ripped off on Scene advertising can call Chris Hutchins at 216-802-7249.

Bad poster child
In December, we presented the tale of Dr. Jorge Martinez, whom the feds accused of overbilling the government, exploiting drug addicts, and conducting unnecessary treatment to enrich himself through his clinics in Parma and Boardman ["On Pills and Needles," December 7]. He may also be responsible for two deaths.

Pain doctors responded swiftly by calling us dupes, arguing that we had fallen prey to the government's campaign against addiction among their patients.

But last week a jury found Martinez guilty on 58 charges. "I knew this man was no good, but not to the extent of things that came out in the trial," says Karen Lancaster-Shells, whose husband died days after passing out in Martinez's office.

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