CLEVELAND -- A secretly-recorded conversation between a U.S District Court judge in Cleveland and Jimmy Dimora is among the 44,000 wiretaps obtained in the federal probe of county corruption in Cuyahoga County.
Soon before the FBI raided county offices in July 2008, Dimora, who at the time was a county commissioner, telephoned Judge Don Nugent about finding a job for Dimora's son, who was a law student at the time. Nugent told Dimora that he made a few calls, but was unable to find his son a position.
Nugent said he doesn't recall any conversation with Dimora, but does remember that Dimora's son was looking for work.
The call had come a few days after the judge had reached out to former County Auditor Frank Russo -- Dimora's long-time buddy --and inquired about a job for the judge's girlfriend, according to close associates of Russo.
The insiders say initally Nugent showed up at the county administration building wanting to speak with Russo. They say the judge followed up with a phone call a few days later.
Nugent says he has never reached out to Russo or Dimora about a job for his girlfriend. He says his girlfriend never applied for a job with the county and doesn't work for the county. When asked if he spoke to someone in Russo's office, Nugent said, "I can't answer that question."
Catherine Turcer of Ohio Citizen Action says it would appear "cronyism runs rampant in Cuyahoga County."
But she says it would be difficult to prove that Dimora, Russo and Nugent were doing favors for each other.
Nugent, highly-regarded among his peers, says there's nothing wrong with making a phone call on behalf of someone as long as you don't expect any favors in return. The judge said he never expected anything from Dimora and Russo and he didn't feel any pressure to help Dimora.
The U.S. Attorney's office declined comment.