Perspective: The Sweeney Story -- Unfair or Unfinished?

7:24 PM, Apr 8, 2013   |    comments
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PERSPECTIVE -- Like many of us, Cleveland Council President Marty Sweeney has a lot going on in his life.

At the top of his more-than-full plate, he is helping his wife battle a serious medical condition.

And they are raising four daughters.

Professionally, it's been one headache after another leading Cleveland's body of lawmakers.

He took grief for overseeing a council redistricting and downsizing that even he admits needed more sunshine and transparency.

He's tried to figure out council's options for dealing with Councilman Zack Reed's third DUI that embarrassed the body.

And he was all in on Councilman Ken Johnson's recruiting of Council to be an accomplice in arranging an opportunity to stay on the job and double-dip his pension.

Sweeney's juggled all that under a lingering cloud of suspicion  put there by federal corruption fighters.

They made Marty Sweeney a recurring bit player in the trials of corrupt Commissioner, now-convict Jimmy Dimora  and bribery-scheming contractor and personal Sweeney friend Michael Forlani.

Sweeney's name, voice or picture turned up several times in their legal dramas.

His picture appeared in a pyramid gallery of corruption assembled by prosecutors and shown to jurors.

It was not a random selection, thoughtlessly placed there.

Jurors also heard a wiretapped call between Dimora and Sweeney.

Dimora asked Sweeney to check on the bidding process for a city job sought by contractor Ferris Kleem, the travel agent for Dimora's Las Vegas sex and gambling junket.

Sweeney later told Dimora, "I took care of Ferris, if that's alright. You can take the credit for putting it together."

Kleem was low bidder and got the job in question.

And another taped conversation featured contractor Forlani and downtown developer John Ferchill discussing raising $20,000 for Sweeney's fund to help council lmembers, while counting votes for an unspecified piece of legislation.

Forlani's statement was "Money cures a lot of  evils."

A Forlani-run company did improvements on Sweeney's home before he got to be council president.

Another company working on Sweeney's home improvements won two city jobs shortly after getting a permit for the job.

Sweeney took out a second mortgage around this time.

He's maintained he has receipts and invoices for the work, but has declined to produce them, saying he would do so at the appropriate time.

But so far, he's declined to show them.

Targets of federal investigations often get a letter informing them they are in the legal bullseye.

Sweeney's never gotten such a  letter.

And he's not been charged with any crime.

The feds sprayed out a lot of smoke, but have not generated any fire.

They've done that in other corruption cases, dirtying reputations but not bringing charges.

The matters involving Sweeney that raised eyebrows and suspicions are now past the five-year statute of limitations.

Sweeney's friend, and occasional basketball-playing buddy, Michael Forlani just began an 8-year prison sentence.

He did not cooperate with prosecutors. What might he have said?

Sweeney's former colleague Sabra Pierce Scott is now under house arrest for accepting a Forlani bribe.

There's no indication she said anything implicating Sweeney.

Did prosecutors knowlingly splatter some mud toward Sweeney, knowing they'd raise doubts but never connect the dots?

They've used that tactic in other cases.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald was mentioned in passing in the Dimora case, being recorded talking with Dimora in a wiretapped call.

Republicans will try to make that an issue in the Governor's race.

He got a prosecutors' letter saying he was not a target.

Has Sweeney ever asked for such a letter?

We've been trying to reach him to ask without much luck over the last few days.

Did Sweeney manage to stay on the straight and narrow in the midst of players who did not? 

Has he been unfairly smeared or did he dodge a bullet?

It's a question any future political opponents could ask.

It would be up to the court of public opinion to decide.

Only he and prosecutors know.

Meantime, he's got lots of other important stuff to worry about.


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