AKRON -- Zavarella Brothers Construction company owner Nick Zavarella testified that he gave then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora a total of $33,000 worth of work in his back yard for free, including a massive, decorative retaining wall and brick and stone work on Dimora's high-end outdoor canopied patio.
After that, Zavarella testified that he called or talked to Dimora several times over a period of years after the work was completed, asking Dimora for help in getting his relatives and his next door neighbor's ex-daughter-in-law jobs with the county, the Bedford school district and the Parma school district.
Zavarella Brothers is a masonry contractor in Bedford Heights, where Dimora had been mayor from 1981 to 1998.
Zavarella testified that he asked Dimora for help in getting his daughter, Lauren Zavarella, a job at Cuyahoga County for a year in 2001, then a job as a substitute teacher in the Parma school district in 2006, and then a job as a full-time teacher in the Bedford school district in 2007, the place where she works to date.
Two other daughters also got jobs with Dimora's help, Zavarella testified, one with a judge and the other in the City of Solon.
Zavarella said that he knew that Dimora knew several school district officials personally and Parma school board member J. Kevin Kelley in particular.
Zavarella said that, in the summer of 2007, his next door neighbor asked Zavarella to intercede for him with Dimora to get a job with the county for his ex-daughter-in-law, Lillian Trovato.
She was formerly married to James Trovato, who was friends with Dimora and co-defendant Michael Gabor.
According to prosecutors, Dimora told Russo to put Lillian Trovato on the payroll. At first she was a part-time employee but then Gabor, at the request of James Trovato, pushed to get her a full-time job, according to court documents.
On Jan. 12, in her opening statement in this trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Antoinette Bacon said that Gabor told Russo to "put Lillian Trovato on full time, with benefits, and there will be something in it for you."
Zavarella has already pleaded guilty in the Cuyahoga County corruption probe and is awaiting sentencing. He is cooperating with federal prosecutors.
In addition to phone calls, Zavarella said he talked to Dimora about jobs in person and then Dimora said they would get together for dinner, likely at the Deep Springs Trout Club in Chardon.
Under questioning by Dimora's defense attorneys, Zavarella testified that he and his wife and Dimora and Dimora's wife, Lori, were longtime friends.
He testified that he had dinners at Dimora's home, that Dimora officiated at his brother's wedding, and that Dimora had paid for a dinner check when they were out dining.
Defense attorneys stressed that the free work was because of friendship, not bribery.
Dimora, 56, of Independence, is charged with 36 federal counts, including accepting bribes, racketeering and conspiracy. Gabor, 52, of Parma, is charged with bribery and conspiracy.
Both have pleaded not guilty and maintain their innocence.