The Edge

Free Clinic Faces Staff Infection

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A revolution is afoot at the Free Clinic, where about 70 percent of staffers recently voted to unionize. Changes in management structure, firings, and other organizational headaches prompted the usually laid-back health workers to file last week for an official union election with the National Labor Relations Board. For months, the staff has been meeting in secret to discuss the move -- not because of the low pay, long hours, or tough working conditions, says pharmacy coordinator Mike Kutsick, but because "our voice has been taken away." A shot of worker solidarity could do the trick.

Joan S. Bowman and Richard A. Lewis, Cleveland's most popular anti-government extremists, may once again be taking advantage of the Justice Center's lavish amenities. In late March, the two were sentenced after trying to buy a fleet of Cadillacs worth $374,000 from Lakewood's DeLorean Cadillac using a "sight draft," a bogus financial instrument Bowman and Lewis claimed could be drawn on the U.S. Treasury. The scam, fueled by the pair's wacky take on the illegitimacy of the federal government, earned Bowman five years probation and Lewis a year of home detention. Now each is facing a charge of intimidation. Seems that, in the midst of their court proceedings, the pair allegedly tried to file criminal charges against several Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges. Though the alleged incident took place before the two were sentenced for the Cadillac scam, the court may not look kindly on their behavior if they are indicted and found guilty. Their sentences stipulated that they refrain from contacting court personnel.

Watch for City Council to move this week's hearings on the city's bungled 1998 civil service exam from its intimate committee room -- where council and administration officials typically face off -- to the vaulted two-story great hall of Council Chambers, which includes a giant pulpit and witness boxes. One council member says the move is less about accommodating a crowd than about creating dramatic effect. "It's going to be like the Spanish Inquisition," says the anxious gladiator, who, like the rest of council, will be mum once hearings begin. The Grand Inquisitor: Hired gun Barbara Marburger of Walter & Haverfield. Marburger spent 11 years working for the city, including 3 years as employment section chief. Offers the gleeful council member: "You can sell tickets to this one."

Teamsters and prison officials sipped wine and swapped stories last week in the company of power-brokers like KeyBank exec/Film Commission chair James E. Bennett and Gund Foundation gatekeeper David Bergholz. The occasion: a private kickoff reception on the 55th floor of Key Tower with the crew of Proximity, an HBO project that began shooting in town earlier this week. Bennett and a handful of other city leaders were greeted by director Scott Ziehl and producer/Cleveland native Alan Schechter, who promised a Fugitive-type thriller. The fugitive in question last week was Proximity star Rob Lowe, who may have been rehearsing his role as a convict on the run. The hard-luck heartthrob can be scoped on area set locations, including the Grafton State prison, Ohio City, the Metroparks, Tower City, and the federal courthouse. For a more revealing look at Lowe, consult his home video, which is widely available on the Internet.

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