There’s a saying that the leopard doesn’t change its spots.
Essentially it refers to someone’s character. It usually means that despite what seems a change for the better it’s a pretense and one should be wary.
I think the March 15th Democratic primary for county prosecutor is one of the most important elections in a long time. It could have a nasty consequence for local politics.
A look to the past can sometimes foretell the future.
The election for county prosecutor pits Prosecutor Tim McGinty against challenger Michael O’Malley, a former chief assistant to Bill Mason, the former county prosecutor.
These are political professionals. Self-serving patronage builders.
The O’Malley/Mason connection is worrisome. Politically, the combo has tried in the past to consolidate Democratic political power throughout Cuyahoga County. They are known for heavy-handed and dirty tactics.
Mason left office early amid the County corruption scandal. He joined a Columbus law firm, Bricker & Eckler. His ambition to be Senator or Governor seemed over. But hope springs eternal.
A Plain Dealer investigation in 2010 “determined that nearly one in five people he (Mason) had hired since becoming prosecutor either held public office or was related to or friends with other politicians.”
The PD also noted that at least 13 family members had received public employment since Mason started his career in Parma city council.
It was a hallmark of the O’Malley-Mason political ambitions. Building a political machine.
Mason had enjoyed close relations with Pat O’Malley, former Cleveland councilman and County Recorder. Pat was convicted and jailed on charges after investigators found images of child pornography on seized computers. He did about a year in jail.
Mason remained friendly with O’Malley. Political buddies despite O’Malley’s varied troubles.
Cleveland Magazine questioned Mason about his relationship.
Erick Trickey asked Mason, “Why did you keep giving contributions to him after he was charged in the domestic violence case and after his house was searched?” (O’Malley ran against Peter Lawson Jones for an open seat on the old County Commission.)
Mason evaded an answer saying, “I don’t think one has anything to do with another. I just don’t think they do. People make mistakes.”
It appears that the O’Malley/Mason political friendship continues.
Oddly, Mike O’Malley is receiving support in the black community. Likely, McGinty’s actions in the Tamir Rice case have given impetus to this support. It’s a dangerous alliance.
The leopard doesn’t change spots. This should concern all voters.
The brand of politics espoused by the O’Malleys and Mason shouldn’t be allowed to germinate again in Cuyahoga County.
A piece I wrote in the Free Times in 2001 attests to the desires to create a political machine. Apparently the poisonous desire remains alive. The article reveals how these people operate.
Here is the article in full:
A telephone call in the wee hours of the morning a week ago disturbed Council President Mike Polensek. The call was from a man who said he had been campaigning against Polensek in exchange for favorable treatment on a drug charge pending against him.
Polensek arranged to meet with the caller on a Collinwood corner, but not before, on advice of legal counsel, he contacted the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI.
Polensek drove to an agreed-upon site, backed his car in—for a quick getaway if necessary, he said—and waited. A man in a trench coat soon approached the car. Polensek, holding a telephone to his ear as a prop, rolled down the car window and asked the man to step to the rear of the auto and wait a minute.
At that point, the man, Marcel Godfrey, moved back, and two unmarked vehicles zipped to either side of Polensek’s car. Two FBI agents quickly surrounded Godfrey, telling him that they were there for his protection as well as Polensek’s.
All four of them sat in one of the agent’s cars. Godfrey told the agents that he had been offered help in reducing a felony drug charge of possession of marijuana to a misdemeanor if he campaigned for Polensek’s opponent, Mark McGraw, a more aggressive opponent than Polensek, a 22-year council veteran, has encountered in years.
Being a minority, Godfrey said, he campaigned with McGraw, to badmouth Polensek as not responsive to the needs of blacks. This is a rather common strategy in a ward election, particularly when there’s an expanding black constituency, as is the case in Collinwood’s Ward 11. McGraw claims that he walked with Godfrey only one time and that Godfrey was a “volunteer.” Godfrey claims he was a coordinator and said he was paid twice, by McGraw, from the cash register of McGraw’s Mark’s Time-Out Grille in Collinwood. McGraw asserts that the money—$140 and possibly another $100—was simply a loan.
But, according to Polensek, Godfrey’s claim is made more disturbing by a meeting the council president says he had about a week before their encounter, with two people sent to him by County Recorder Patrick O’Malley – Ken Dowell of the group Blacks United In Local Democracy and Dennis Roberts, an assistant prosecutor in Prosecutor Bill Mason’s office.
The meeting took place because Polensek complained that BUILD, headed by Dowell, had been involving itself in various races against incumbent council members. O’Malley told Polensek he wasn’t involving himself in ward races. He arranged for Dowell and Roberts to further convince Polensek of BUILD’s non-involvement.
But Godfrey, who now fears he cannot get a fair trial, named Dowell and Roberts as the two who recruited him to work for McGraw via BUILD, the group that supposedly wasn’t involving itself in council races.
Dowell, in fact, told me several weeks ago that BUILD was campaigning for several challengers to council members. Polensek also said that Godfrey knew of his meeting with Dowell and Roberts though the meeting was secret, giving Godfrey more credence with Polensek.
This is the second episode involving employees of Recorder O’Malley’s office and alleged threats to use the power of the office of Prosecutor Mason in a council race.
Previously, Emily Lipovan Holan, Tremont West Development Corp. director, charged that Samir Mohammad threatened her with prosecution unless she helped get a candidate out of the primary race against Ward 14 incumbent Nelson Cintron. Holan says that O’Malley was present, standing aside as Mohammad made the threat.
Mason stated that he talk with O’Malley about the incident and that O’Malley, a close friend, denied it happened. O’Malley has never returned calls about either incident involving his office.
The friendly connection between O’Malley and Mason, along with the combination of Dowell and Roberts, employees of O’Malley and Mason, respectively, suggest the need for a special prosecutor to look into these election shenanigans.
Mason says that he contacted the FBI after an item last week in the Free Times reported Godfrey’s charges. He says the FBI found “no cause to proceed” on the claim. (One hopes that the FBI has more important tasks presently.)
Mason, however, added, “I’m going to review the whole matter with Dennis (Roberts) and ferret out what it is that did occur and then take appropriate action.”
There are serious questions involved in all this intrigue. And it’s questionable whether Mason or the prosecutor’s office can investigate these matters impartially.
Someone needs to look into whether O’Malley or any of his employees has used the recorder’s office for political purposes. What employees do off-hours can be legitimate political activity. Use of public office for political purposes, however, sent one local politician to jail in recent years.
The threat of prosecutorial power to intimidate or force people to do or refrain from doing something represents a political cudgel no one should be able to wield. Mason’s high political profile for a persecutor invites such concerns.
The lingering suspicion about the power desires of O’Malley and Mason taint even legal political activities by these public officials. Some believe that O’Malley wants not only to have a powerful position within council, but also on the other side of City Hall, with his backing of mayoral candidate Jane Campbell.
O’Malley and Mason appeared prominently with Campbell at her primary victory event. Many believe that the two also want to take over the County Commission, first with O’Malley replacing Campbell if she becomes mayor, and then by getting rid of Jimmy Dimora, commissioner, and Democratic Party chairman.
In no uncertain terms, Campbell should tell the public that she would strenuously oppose an O’Malley candidacy for county commissioner.