Dimora Drama: Wiretaps Suggest Businessman Paid For Vegas Trip

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County Corruption Trial

AKRON, Ohio— Testimony continues on Friday in the federal corruption trial of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, Fox 8’s Dave Nethers reports.

On the day after opening statements were delivered, things got off to a late start because of the snowstorm.

Proceedings finally got under way at 10 a.m. with Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Michael Massie returning to the stand.

During his testimony, jurors listened to more wiretapped conversations from Dimora’s phone dating back to February of 2008. With the incriminating and often salacious audio, prosecutors are attempting to prove a connection between a gift — like a trip to Las Vegas — and some official act.

Establishing that connection is a crucial aspect of proving Dimora’s guilt. Many of the recordings include Dimora, former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo, former Cuyahoga County Engineer’s Office employee J. Kevin Kelley and Blaze Construction Co. owner Ferris Kleem discussing a trip to Vegas. Kleem is heard offering a first-class flight and discounted suites at The Mirage.

During Massie’s testimony Thursday afternoon, jurors heard a wiretapped conversation in which Kelley calls Kleem extending an invitation for Kleem to join them on a trip to Vegas planned for April of 2008. Massie testified that Dimora used Kelley as an intermediary to set up the trip. During the conversation, Kelley hands the phone to Dimora. Kleem asks Dimora to call his office so that his secretary could set up the trip to ensure Dimora and Russo would stay at The Mirage at a discounted rate. “You and Frank, I’ll take care of you with a suite,” Kleem is heard telling Dimora. Kleem also is heard asking Dimora, “Do you want to be on the same plane with everybody or do you want me to take care of some things?” That’s when the conversation briefly shifts to a meeting Kleem had before a “board” identified in testimony as the county Board of Health, which operated under the authority of the Board of Commissioners.

The issue was over a smoking violation for which Kleem had been cited. At one point, Dimora tells Kleem, “I wanted to make sure he treated you right.” Massie testified that “he” refers to Terrence Allen with the Board of Health. Kleem tells Dimora he is very satisfied with the outcome of the meeting. Jurors would later hear a recorded telephone call between Dimora and Allen in which the latter agrees to contact Kleem and to look out for him and his $100 citation.

The wiretapped conversation between Dimora and Kleem would shift to a discussion about a contract that is millions of dollars over budget. Kleem asks Dimora if he would award it to him if he was the low bidder. Dimora replies by saying, “Yeah.” The conversation then shifts back to the Vegas trip. Kleem tells Dimora, “Maybe we can take a couple of the girls with us.”

The first tape jurors heard on Friday was a telephone conversation between Dimora and Russo discussing contracts for the Juvenile Justice Center. “I tell all these guys, ‘Go in low and just add a thing or two as you go along,’ and they don’t listen,” Russo says. Massie testified that the low bidder is generally given contracts, and the comment by Russo indicates he instructed his friends to submit low bids, adding to the project only after securing the job. In the call, Dimora is heard complaining about his fellow county commissioners Tim Hagan and Peter Lawson Jones.