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Thursday, June 13, 2019

Cleveland.com's Insulting and Surprising Endorsement of Bill Mason

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2019 at 12:49 PM

BRICKER & ECKLER LLP
  • Bricker & Eckler LLP

To read Cleveland.com's ecstatic, full-throated endorsement of Bill Mason's appointment as chief of staff to beleaguered and incompetent county executive Armond Budish, one would assume that its author not only did not work at the region's largest news organization during Mason's tenure as prosecutor and the first county corruption scandal, but that the author was not even generally aware of either.

It is the only plausible explanation for the words that were breathlessly summoned and bestowed on a man whose lengthy and troubling resume deserves criticism, not celebration.

That assumption, of course, isn't true. Cleveland.com editor, president and editorial board member Chris Quinn, who almost certainly penned the offending editorial, worked at the Plain Dealer through that era and, as metro editor at the time, led the coverage of the scandal and its aftermath. Which is why this week's words are such a striking and insulting pom-pom routine



Behold, according to the editorial, Bill Mason: a "forward-thinking" "proven administrator" whose appointment is a "bold move to get things fixed and get the county moving," and who "would not have accepted the chief of staff position if he did not intend to dedicate himself to making the government work."

Mason, it's clear and history has shown, has dedicated himself to making the government work... for himself, for his cronies, for his pals, for his relatives.

We know this partly thanks to the Plain Dealer's coverage from the mid-2000s to 2011. Coverage quarterbacked by Quinn. Coverage that detailed, in no particular order:

- That one in five people Mason hired either " held public office or was related to or a friend of a public office holder."

- That he built an all-powerful political machine that he used to benefit his pals
and strong arm anyone who didn't get on board.

- That "Mason's office pursued criminal charges against hundreds of people over the past decade despite having little or no evidence against them."

- That Mason refused to prosecute a friend and employee who misappropriated more than $300,000 from clients.

- That Mason allegedly rigged a judicial race.

— That in crafting the original version of county reform, "The lack of any nepotism rules in the new county charter — despite their presence in nearby Summit County's charter — as well as murky language on the duties of the new county law director suggest Mason's primary role in this process was to protect his own perquisites."

All of this is ignored, or treated as irritating footnotes to be wiped clean, as
Mason's successes are touted in a vomitous stupor. Successes are fine to discuss with respect to evaluating his legacy, but presented this week, with the announcement of this job in this administration, is an embarrassment. And it will not be taken lightly, because the public has not forgotten that the Plain Dealer, though it followed with important reporting once the Feds swooped in on Dimora, Russo and company, failed to address or uncover the corruption for years prior.

That Cleveland.com's editor now sees fit to cozy up to the prosecutor who similarly ignored corruption by his pals and everyone around him — "Over his 11 years in office, Mason has seen little evil, heard less, and smelled none," Scene wrote in 2011 — is a clear indication Quinn has shed any last remaining vestment of a watchdog journalist and slipped easily into the gaudy attire of hype man for Cleveland's powerful.

The editorial, which could have doubled as Armond Budish's press release, should serve as a batsignal in the sky that in Quinn's newsroom, the old journalism axiom has been flipped on its head, with skepticism and open disdain for the citizens of Cleveland and unearned faith in the city's leaders.

"Budish deserves praise for selecting Mason," the editorial closes. "Now, he needs to give Mason the latitude needed to do this job."

Yes, because giving Mason ample leeway to operate went so well the first time, Mr. Quinn. Or have you forgotten?

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