AKRON -- J. Kevin Kelley testified about the day the FBI raided homes and county offices and the "party" was over.
The former Cuyahoga County employee and Parma school board member, who has already pleaded guilty in the county corruption investigation, talked about the end of six years of parties, bribes, sex, and corruption.
"It would have gotten worse," Kelley added, when asked what would have happened had the FBI not raided dozens of homes, businesses, and government offices on July 28, 2008.
He said the fist hint of trouble came on May 23, 2008, when Steve Pumper, the CEO of D-A-S Construction, was caught in the parking lot of a Boston Market restaurant, after Pumper had just passed $2,000 in cash to a Cleveland building inspector.
Word travelled fast through the group of friends who called themselves "The A-Team." Soon, Kelley, Jimmy Dimora, Michael Gabor, and others were admonishing each other to watch what they said and to distance themselves from Pumper.
On May 26, 2008, some members of The A-Team, including Dimora and Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo, gathered for breakfast at the Yours Truly restaurant in Independence.
Kelley says when he got there, Dimora immediately told him to go out into the parking lot and talk to Rick Capone, a local businessman. Capone delivered the news to Kelley that Pumper had been detained by the FBI.
"I think everyone was kind of shocked by the whole thing," Kelley admitted on the witness stand. "There wasn't a whole lot of joking going around. There was a pit in my stomach."
Kelley said that was in sharp contrast to the usual joking members of The A-Team did during their meals, things like loosening the lid on the salt shaker and hiding each others' keys.
Later that day, Kelley met Dimora at his home where he said the county commissioner became worried that Pumper had not billed him for approximately $60,000 worth of work D-A-S Construction had done at Dimora's home.
"You know, I've been asking for bills for months and months and he won't send me a bill," Dimora told Kelley. But Kelley said, "I never actually heard him say that," referring to the fact that Dimora had not asked to be billed.
"We're just covering our trail."
A series of frantic phone calls among The A-Team members followed, in which they warned each other to watch their words and avoid Steve Pumper.
Kelley and Rob Rybak, then-business manager of Plumbers Local 55 and now serving a 27-month federal prison term, joked on the phone with each other about what to say if they were questioned.
"To the best of my recollection, I don't recall," said Kelley. "To the best of my recollection, I don't recall," Rybak parrotted.
Then Kelley and Dimora got into a car and met secretly with Rybak, who had driven his car to join them in the parking lot of a post office in Independence.
"Be careful around Steve Pumper," Kelley warned. Rybak was worried that people would find out he had sent union plumbers to work on Dimora's house, and that the union paid the bill, not Dimora.
Dimora told the pair that wasn't a problem.
Then when the FBI raids came down on July 28, 2008, Kelley said The A-Team met and decided "It wasn't a party anymore." Dimora advised the team to "protect the women and children," and a few meetings took place at "dive bar" on State Road in Cleveland.
"We didn't go to Shula's Steak 2 or Delmonico's anymore," Kelley said.