Plain Dealer Claims Frank Russo Threatened Publisher Terrance Egger

Frank Russo really doesnt know how to stay out of the news.
  • Frank Russo really doesn't know how to stay out of the news.

County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora has repeatedly and earnestly called out the Plain Dealer during meetings and in front of the media for, as he believes, having an unfair grudge against him and other embattled politicians in Cuyahoga County.

It's a natural reaction when the town's paper is railing against your crooked political career and exposing corruption in every room of every hallway of every government building. He's angry, we get it; he needs to retaliate.

Frank Russo has been relatively quiet, however. One would assume that he's similarly displeased with the coverage in the PD during recent years as he's been the subject of numerous embarrassing stories and investigations.

Russo, as it turns out, simply prefers to wage his wars in private and with a more passive-aggressive tinge.

As the Plain Dealer's coverage of the board of revision scandals continues, it published an interesting account from publisher Terrance Egger in Sunday's paper. The allegations revolve around Frank Russo threatening to leak a reduction in property value on Egger's house to local television stations if the PD didn't cease its hounding of Russo. Lame and petty.

The trouble began when Egger availed himself of a form to dispute the new property value on his $1,540,000 house in Bay Village. Every three years the auditor's office releases new values; the office includes a form for homeowners to fill out if they believe the value is incorrect.

Plain Dealer Publisher Terrance C. Z. Egger took advantage of the informal process in 2006 after receiving a letter notifying him of the proposed value of his Bay Village home.

Then, some strange things began occurring.

The first, Egger said, was that Frank Russo himself called Egger at The Plain Dealer to talk about the house value.

Then, in March this year, one of Russo's employees contacted Egger to warn him that a 2006 cut in his property value would be leaked to television reporters if the newspaper continued writing about the auditor, Egger said.

Finally, Egger's file at the auditor's office disappeared. No one employed by the auditor could find it this week until late Friday afternoon, after the newspaper called to say it was publishing this story.

Workers then located it—in Russo's private office.

The value of Egger's home was adjusted from $1,341,400 to $1,176,900 after his request. Then a Russo employee came calling.

During the first week of March this year, an auditor's employee e-mailed Egger, and Egger called the man a day later. The man, whom Egger declined to identify, complained about the newspaper coverage of Russo. The employee stressed that senior officials and other workers in Russo's office were tired of being scrutinized in the newspaper.

He said that Egger's "deal" would be leaked to television reporters if the newspaper continued writing about the office, Egger recalled.

The warning was inappropriate and disturbed him, Egger said.

"I had nothing to hide," Egger said. "I'll be damned if I'm going to ask one of our reporters or our newsroom not to do their jobs. The chips will fall where they may.

For a group so tired of being scrutinized by the newspaper, this was surely a poor choice in handling a rather benign situation. Way not to draw attention to yourselves.

On the plus side, now we all know Terrance Egger has a million-dollar home. When's he inviting everyone over for a pool party?

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