Cuyahoga County Executive Upset Over Ameritrust Deal

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CLEVELAND -- To say Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald thinks the former county commissioner made a bad deal in buying the downtown Ameritrust complex would be an understatement.

"We think the county got ripped off," FitzGerald bluntly tells the I-Team, "and I hope people are held accountable for it."

FitzGerald also hopes an indictment handed up this week in the county corruption scandal may help in his efforts to get some of the money back from companies involved in the deal.

He has already screened the original I-Team investigation on the Ameritrust complex in 2007 - the investigation that broke the story of a federal probe of county government nine months before FBI raids put it on the front page.

The indictment charges that attorney Anthony O. Calabrese III tried to bribe J. Kevin Kelley -  a key figure in the scandal - so that Kelley would lobby then-county commissioner Jimmy Dimora to support the idea of the county buying the complex.

Kelley has pled guilty in the scandal, and Dimora was found guilty in March on more than 30 corruption-related charges.

Both are awaiting sentencing.

FitzGerald has launched two investigations, and says, while the law prevents him from going after public officials, he still wants to try and "recoup some of this money" from companies involved in the deal.

The county has spent roughly $45 million to buy the property, remove asbestos, and maintain the site.

The old county commission said it wanted to move the county's headquarters to the site to jump start downtown development.

That never happened and many people now consider the complex a white elephant that the county will have trouble unloading.

"What's clear is that this was such a bad purchase, there's no way the county isn't going to end up losing a significant amount of money when the building is finally sold," FitzGerald says.

FitzGerald says there have been bidders on the property, but he hopes to find one that will help with downtown revitalization.

He hopes to tell it in a year, as he continues to look at legal options.

"We want to make sure we get back as much of the money for the taxpayers as we possibly can," he says.

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