CLEVELAND -- One of Frank Russo's former employees is accusing the corrupt politician of acting like the Godfather, operating the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office like the Mob, and using an enforcer to get rid of him.
"I was threatened, harassed constantly, and physically attacked," said Raymond Rogers.
Rogers had worked as a deputy auditor in the Hotel-Motel Division of Auditor's Office under Russo. He says he was promoted through the ranks and was never written up in nine years on the job.
But he accuses Russo of making his life miserable when his mother-in-law, Sandy Klimkowski, was indicted on corruption charges and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors.
Klimkowski was a top aide to Russo and admitted to bribery and other crimes while working for Russo.
"She agreed to cooperate with the investigation against Frank Russo, and they couldn't get to her. But they could get to her son-in-law," said Bradley Barmen, the attorney representing Rogers in his lawsuit against Russo, and former Russo employees Phillip Garofoli and Destin Ramsey.
Rogers feared for his safety, saying Garofoli constantly threatened and harassed him.
He recalls a time when Garofoli confronted him as he tried to leave the county administration building. "He came at me like this, with his arm raised," Rogers said.
Rogers was demoted several times from his job as deputy auditor to a position checking dog licenses and later to a basement office doing menial labor.
"My desk was replaced with a piece of plywood on top of milk crates," Rogers said.
When it became clear that Rogers wasn't going to quit his job, he was fired.
"Some of it was so childish it was laughable. But this was serious because they took his livelihood and his benefits used to support his family," Barmen said.
Channel 3 News has learned that Garofoli received a pay raise of $3,000 at about the time Rogers was fired.
"He was rewarded because he did his job. His job was to get rid of Ray. It took 10 months, but he did it," Barmen said.
Attempts to contact Russo, Ramsey and Garofoli were unsuccessful.
Russo has been doing his talking in court, and testifying for federal prosecutors against key corruption figures. His testimony has helped in the convictions of former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judges Bridget McCafferty and Steven Terry.
Russo is expected to testify against his long-time friend and political ally Jimmy Dimora at the former county commissioner's trial which begins in January.
Russo is hoping his willingness to cooperate with prosecutors will help shorten his prison term of nearly 22 years.