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County filing lawsuit over ill-fated Ameritrust purchase

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Ameritrust Building in downtown Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County will announce Monday that it is suing 10 defendants regarding the ill-fated purchase of the Ameritrust Tower that wound up costing taxpayers about $18 million.

The county says the suit will cover several areas, including an asbestos removal contract.

In 2007, the FOX 8 I-Team broke the story of a federal corruption probe of the old county government with an investigation into that contract.

Our investigation focused on why the county would pass up the lowest bidder, who had a 100 percent surety bond on its work. It instead chose a local company for the job, a decision that cost taxpayers nearly a million dollars more to get the same work done.

“We’ve been looking at this for a while,” new County Executive Ed FitzGerald told us back in 2012, “and your station has been looking at it for a long time, and with good reason.”

In addition to the asbestos contract, the county plans to sue Vince Russo, son of former county Auditor Frank Russo.

Both father and son pleaded guilty in the FBI’s corruption probe and went to prison.
The county says it plans to sue Jones Lang LaSalle Great Lakes Corporate Real Estate Partners, LLC, who use to do business under the name “The Staubach Company – Great Lakes Region.”

Staubach was paid a $3 million fee as a real estate consultant on the deal.

One of the attorneys who represented the company locally, Anthony Calabrese III, later pleaded guilty in the corruption probe on bribery charges.

In the past, Staubach officials have denied any wrongdoing. The company recommended the county lease the space, not buy the Ameritrust complex as it ultimately did.

County Executive Ed FitzGerald came into office after voters chose to change the county’s form of government in the wake of the scandal.

The new county administration says the Ameritrust deal “helped prompt an FBI (corruption) probe” that ultimately sent dozens of people, including former county commission Jimmy Dimora, to prison.

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