CLEVELAND, Ohio — Former Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman in court Tuesday pleaded guilty to 26 counts of unlawful interest in a public contract.
As part of the plea deal, Cimperman agreed to pay a $10,000 fine. He was sentence to 12 months in jail, which was suspended, and 12 months probation. He was also ordered to complete 100 hours of community service.
Cimperman faced 180 days in jail.
The charges stem from a year-long investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission. It began in 2013 after allegations that he abused his official position as city councilman by awarding and voting for contracts benefiting ParkWorks/LAND Studio between 2002 and 2012. His wife is senior project manager for the company.
In all, 26 public contracts were awarded to the county in the amount of $4.8 million.
The charges were filed in Cuyahoga County court last month. A special prosecutor was brought in to handle the case.
He was indicted by information, which is the case when the person being investigated is cooperating with investigators.
After he pleaded guilty Tuesday, Cimperman’s attorney said that the former councilman blames no one but himself and asked that he be sentenced with community control.
“Not a day goes by in five years where I haven’t woken up to this and thought about it,” Cimperman said. “If I could go back and do it right…I would. This isn’t who I am…this is what I did, and I take full responsibility for it.”
Meanwhile, Stephanie Anderson, a public integrity attorney with the Ohio Auditor’s Office, said Cimperman’s case is “what happens when public officials abuse their position.” She said Cimperman didn’t benefit from the contracts, but his wife did.
She said that other Cleveland-area businesses would also have liked to have benefited from such contracts. She asked for a sentence that didn’t demean his actions, and one that showed Cleveland does not condone such behavior.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson previously released a statement regarding Cimperman and the case:
“I served with Joe for many years. He has done a lot for the Ward he represented and the City of Cleveland. I am proud to call him my friend.”
Global Cleveland, the non-profit organization the Cimperman now works for, released this statement:
“When we hired Joe, we did so because we were looking for a strong leader who would take Global Cleveland to the next level. During our search and hiring process, Joe made it known to us that there was a pending review of some of his actions when he served on City Council. That review is complete and he is accepting responsibility for his actions in court. Our Board has voted unanimously to have Joe continue as our president. We have tremendous faith in Joe look forward to increased success of the organization in the years ahead.”
Chairman, Board of Directors – Global Cleveland”