Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In Cleveland, public corruption indictments leave Forest City unscathed, but lucrative land deal remains "a head-scratcher"

In August 2008, Cleveland-area media reported on a public corruption probe that involved, among other things, a curiously lucrative return to a subsidiary of developer Forest City Enterprises.

Today some indictments came down, but the developer--shades of the Ridge Hill case involving subsidiary Forest City Ratner?--seems unscathed.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on the indictment of Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, a man who once declared "I'm not an angel, but I'm no crook... I'm not doing anything different than any other public official does."

The article stated:
In 2000, Dimora ballyhooed the purchase of contaminated Cleveland land that, after a decade and millions of additional tax dollars needed for environmental cleanup, is finally set to house a new Juvenile Justice Center. He said then that the project would create 200 jobs.

The deal has always been a head-scratcher. The county's interest in the land was known, but a subsidiary of real estate developer Forest City Enterprises bought it at a county auditor's sale for about $400,000. Then, months later, the county bought the property back for $2.75 million.

On the day the deal was signed, Campbell, according to an audio recording of the meeting, marveled that a project in limbo for years took off after Dimora became a commissioner.

"It's being Italian," Dimora replied then. "You make people an offer they can't refuse."

Federal agents sought documents related to the project when they raided his office in 2008.
Indeed, it's a real head-scratcher. It's not even part of the 139-page indictment. Another Plain Dealer article reported that the overall investigation continues.

One reader commented:
Any of those found guilty should be prosecuted and punished. It looks like Forest City made out better than anyone in this crisis, why aren't they charged. Surely a piece of property going from $400,000 to $2.3 million so quickly isn't just good business!!!!!!!!!!!! You can't convince me that legal campaign contributions cna allow something so blatant!

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