Grand Jury Indicts Three In Cuyahoga County Corruption Probe

Cuyahoga County's administrative headquarters in downtown Cleveland.
Cuyahoga County's administrative headquarters in downtown Cleveland. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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A grand jury has indicted one Cuyahoga County official and two former ones, including the former jail director, after a year-long corruption investgation. 

Former regional corrections dirctor Ken Mills, former IT general counsel Emily McNeeley and chief talent officer Douglas Dykes were charged in the indictment, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley announced in a news release Friday.

Prosecutors accuse Mills of lying to local and federal investigators about his dealings "with a high-level Cuyahoga County official." The news release also said Mills had lied to county council about the role he played in blocking the hiring of nurses at the jail. 

McNeeley is accused of recommending that county council award a $9 million IT contract to Ciber, without disclosing that her father, a former commissioner of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, had been convicted of taking a bribe from the company. She is also accused of steering $1.2 million in contracts to Hyland Software, which employs her wife. Prosecutors say McNeeley did not disclose that her wife also owns stock in the company. 

Prosecutors accuse Dykes of converting improper moving expenses into a $15,000 signing bonus for the county's deputy chief information officer, James Hay. They say Dykes didn't receive approval for the signing bonus and lied to a county employee that the law director had OKed it. 

“Ten years ago, County government drowned in a sea of corruption. Citizens rightly expected that the new form of County government would usher in an era of high ethical behavior and effective governance,” O’Malley said in the news release. “Sadly, today’s indictments demonstrate that our new form of government has not met those expectations. Our investigation continues.”

A spokesperson for County Executive Armond Budish said the county would not be issuing a statement.

In a written statement, Cuyahoga County Council President Dan Brady said he was “dismayed” by charges that included lying to council.

“It's impossible for a legislative body such as County Council to exercise its oversight responsibility without the truth,” Brady said. “The charges filed today are disturbing to Council and we will continue to push for all the facts that led to today's indictments and probe. Council and staff continue to fully cooperate with the investigators and the prosecutor.”

Mills was charged with tampering with records and telecommunications fraud, both felonies, as well as falsification and obstructing official business, which are misdemeanors.

McNeeley was charged with telecommunications fraud, tampering with records, having an unlawful interest in a public contract and other offenses.

Dykes was charged with theft in office, tampering with records, obstructing official business and falsification.

These mark the first indictments announced in the long-running county corruption investigation. The county and other agencies have received more than 20 grand jury subpoenas seeking testimony and documents.

Investigators Followed Email And Records Trail

The county received a grand jury subpoena in January 2018 requesting emails and other records related to county contracts with several IT and software companies.

The subpoena asked for emails that Scot Rourke, the county’s chief information officer, and IT general counsel Emily McNeeley exchanged with employees of Hyland Software and OneCommunity. The subpoena also sought records related to OneCommunity’s successor companies, DigitalC and Everstream.

Before joining the county, Rourke served as director for OneCleveland, the predecessor to OneCommunity. McNeeley’s wife, Lisa McNeeley, works as a sales operations manager at Hyland.

A February subpoena targeted records related to Sharon Sobol Jordan, then the chief of staff to Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. The subpoena asked for parking lot access logs, mileage reimbursement records, time off requests and payment information.

The same day that the county received that subpoena, Budish announced that Sobol Jordan would leave her administration job to lead the Unify Project, a new tech-focused nonprofit.

Throughout 2018, additional subpoenas sought emails and other records related to the tech companies Thunder Tech, CitySourced, Vox Mobile and SpyGlass. They also asked for more records related to McNeeley, Rourke, Sobol Jordan, economic development director Ted Carter and other county employees.

The subpoenas referred specifically to two county IT projects: the creation of the MyCuyahoga mobile app and the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System, a $25 million effort to link together the county’s computer systems.

This week, county prosecutors announced that one ERP vendor named in the subpoenas, Plante Moran, had agreed to pay back the $123,500 the company received to work on the project. As part of the agreement, Plante Moran denied any wrongdoing or liability. 

Cuyahoga County Council President Dan Brady and Councilman Michael Gallagher, along with council staffers Trevor Macaleer and Joe Nanni, also received subpoenas to testify before a grand jury. The subpoenas don’t specify what they were asked to discuss.

By December 2018, the investigation appeared to have expanded to the troubled Cuyahoga County Jail. A subpoena that month sought all emails and other correspondence from former jail director Mills.

Another pair of subpoenas from December called Dr. Akram Boutros, the CEO of MetroHealth, and chief of staff Jane Platten to testify before a grand jury.

 

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