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Group gets court-ordered audit of Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo

1:18 PM, Jun 21, 2009   |    comments
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Common Pleas Judge Eileen A. Gallagher approved his request.

Frost wants an accountant, a lawyer and someone with public administration experience to be appointed.

"There is much discussion these days of government reform. In order for meaningful reform to occur, we must first understand the problems and abuses of the current system," Frost said.

Frost said that Russo, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to using his public office for political purposes, and who has in the past been accused of irregularities in the valuation of real property by his auditor's office, is currently implicated in the ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Frost added that allegations contained in the U.S. District Court federal filings June 12 of bribery, contract fixing and trading public jobs for political favors, center around "Public Official 2," identified by circumstances, if not by name, as Russo.

Frost, who Thursday asked Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora to step down as commissioner, said that, "With Commissioner (Jimmy) Dimora and Auditor Russo as caretakers of the county finances for the last decade, there can be no doubt that the citizens of Cuyahoga deserve a thorough review of the county finances, in order to chart a course to a responsible, transparent and accountable county government."

Dimora did not step down as commissioner.

Frost continued, "We cannot reform our county until we clear the corrupt officials from the scene. That job of cleaning house and then rebuilding our county government cannot truly get underway until and unless we know the extent, not only of their crimes, but also of the financial damage that has been done." 

Frost said that, when elected or appointed officials commit fraud, as is alleged in recent federal filings, they steal from the taxpayer and violate the public trust.

"My husband and I have had multiple occasions to experience the inefficiencies of the county auditor's office that lead us to believe that there is, at a minimum, some level of mismanagement in county government -- if not corruption -- that is contributing to the demise of this area," said Karen Gurney, a university student and Garfield Heights Democrat, who, along with her husband, signed on as members of the citizen committee making the request of the court.

Among the 32 members in the group are Westlake School Board member Tim Sullivan; Parma City Councilwoman Mary Galinas; Rocky River City Councilman Dave Furry; former GOP county chairman and former state Rep. Jim Trakas, of Independence; and former State Board of Education member Jeff Dean, of Bentleyville.

The auditor's office has an annual budget for 2009 of $9 Million, or more than $16 for each household in the County, Frost calculated.

WKYC-TV

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