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Friday, March 22, 2013

Critical Report Outlines Issues in County Prosecutor's Office

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2013 at 7:01 PM

  • McGinty
Former County Prosecutor Bill Mason left a wreck of a department in his wake.

That much at least is readily apparent following the publication of recent office efficiency studies and independent departmental reports.

Mason stepped down Sept. 30, months ahead of the end of his term. Judge Timothy McGinty was appointed, and later elected to the seat in November. He chose to bring in some outside voices to try to gain some perspective on what sorts of issues remained. It was, in hindsight and at the moment, a pretty solid idea.

“This should be a new day in Cuyahoga County and CCPO," as the report states. "After several years of public corruption trials of Democratic Party officials, maintaining public confidence in the office calls for new rules and greater expectations."

The Current State Assessment Team, by way of John McCaffrey and others, published a study of the department at the “immediate” request of McGinty.

"We felt it was our public duty," McCaffrey tells Scene. Begun in October, the one draft - the final draft - was completed Dec. 12. Scene initially requested the documents Jan. 11, but nothing was released privately or publicly until today.

All of the work for this report was done at not cost to the office.

“A public trust has been passed to you,” McCaffrey writes in a letter directly addressing McGinty. “Given the recent record of public corruption in Cuyahoga County, our fellow citizens became weary and disillusioned with County government. Reform was implemented, recent developments are encouraging — and you have a terrific opportunity to sustain the momentum.”

McCaffrey, a newly instated attorney at Tucker Ellis, compiled the report with John Zayac, Thomas Hayes and James Rokakis. They interviewed more than 70 percent of the department’s employees - 230 people - and spent “hundreds of hours” in that process and compiling the actual report, McCaffrey says.

“Out of these interviews emerged themes, issues and concern — large and small,” he writes.

The document reveals a mostly labyrinthal structure over at the prosecutor’s office. The detritus left behind by Mason’s tenure is certainly no mole hill. Throughout the report, suggestions are made that would drastically alter the landscape of the office - for the better, no doubt. Personnel in new positions, as outlined by McCaffrey et al., should seek a full-on restructuring, the report advises.

Mason, apparently, was firing off haphazard decisions that didn’t make much sense, according to interviewees. And those employees, in turn, appear to be left with a gargantuan black hole of confusion. As the report would outline it, the office seems like an experiment in non-sequitur and doublespeak.

A few choice takeaways:

- “...internal communications were a reoccurring concern.”

- “...things constantly changing in the office without explanation.”

- “The [work] space is lacking even the most routine maintenance.”

- “[The office] has no coherent or comprehensive orientation or training program in policies and procedures.”

- “The entire program of performance evaluations at the CCPO was found to be a failure...” For example: “Supervisors are instructed that no employee is to be given a score of 5 on a 5-point evaluation scale.”

The report basically points a critical finger at Mason’s way of doing business and sketches solutions for the road ahead.

"He could trust us to call balls and strikes," McCaffrey says of McGinty's choice in the Current State Assessment Team. "Some of it is critical of Mason and the department." A straight-and-narrow perspective on the post-Mason department was needed, given what seemed like a slash-and-burn leadership style left in his wake.

(A noted Cleveland lawyer adds that McCaffrey and his crew are close pals of McGinty, so that surely helped the process along.)

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