K & D OUT AS COUNTY DEVELOPER

Submitted by Roldo on Wed, 06/24/2009 - 13:54.

The Plain Dealer got the headline and photo it wanted today with County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora’s “temporary” abdication of his chairmanship of the County Democrats. It will be a long “temporary.”

 

Dimora makes a hard-to-resist “bad guy” for the PD. (Also, a chance to waste more space that might accommodate news. But who needs that.)

 

The more important story, I think, is the quieter front-page headline that K & D – involved in the County corruption scandal – has decided to drop out of the deal with the County at E.9th and Euclid Ave. That’s where the County first was going to relocate its administrative offices. Then it was going to have K & D develop the crucial downtown corner.

 

The County Commissioners should have quashed that deal long ago. The PD should have been asking for K & D’s dismissal as heartedly as it was seeking Dimora and County Auditor Frank Russo’s dumping.

 

However, the PD is eager to claim a scalp in the ongoing scandal at the County. Dimora’s was easiest at the moment. It seems it is part of the paper’s desire to be relevant. However, the PD never seems to go after developers or corporate interests. So K & D had to do it by itself.

 

K & D never should have had development rights to the building and land. Never. The deal stunk from the beginning as a bogus move to hide the embarrassment of a sour deal involving the late Dick Jacobs and County Commissioners. The Commissioners got caught in their own web.

 

Now we’ll have to watch if the $500,000 K & D put down on the deal will be returned by our County Commissioners. It was supposed to be non-refundable.

 

Tim Hagan tossed off the costly debacle with ease. As usual. He told the PD, “We bought a building; we thought it was going to work; the economy collapsed; and there you have it. Anybody can second guess anybody in this economy.” After all, as he once told a reluctant fellow commissioner, it’s not your money you’re spending. What a guy.

 

The Cuyahoga County Commission gave K & D the development rights to its white elephant corner twice. The long-empty buildings were bought by Hagan and Dimora from the late Dick Jacobs in a sweetheart deal. The building complex includes the historic old Cleveland Trust Rotunda and the Breuer building. It cost the County $22 million to purchase. Now costs have risen to some $37 million not counting the need for asbestos removal, another $4 million or more. The PD says it also costs $10,000 a month for upkeep. That’s $120,000 a year. $600,000 for five years. Anyone want to bet on 10 years before anything happens?

 

The County gave K & D development rights, which I had called “counterfeit” at the time. Turns out to have been a correct assessment.

 

I wrote that the “bid by K & D Group from the beginning struck me as a backroom deal made with at least two County Commissioners  -  Hagan and Dimora – to help them save face on a smelly deal that could have significant financial damage to Cuyahoga County and its taxpayers.”

 

The grandiose development was never going to happen. But the handiness of having a K & D around to hand off a project that would lie in limbo suggests a familiarity between the County and developer too convenient to be trusted.

 

Now it is revealed that K & D provided a free condo to County officials in its Flats development. How convenient.

 

I wrote about K & D’s condo project back in 1999. The City of Cleveland gave developers Bob Corna and partner Doug Price not only tax abatement (100 percent for 15 years) and other goodies on their condo development but development rights to the Old Superior Viaduct. The Viaduct which juts out but is an unfinished bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic buildings. It’s a bridge that goes nowhere. But quite interesting.

 

However, Corna and Price were given rights to the bridge for 40 years at $1.00. Yes, that’s a dollar. In exchange they were supposed to revamp the bridge and make it an entertainment site.

 

They were supposed to make the bridge an entertainment venue. The city turned a public space into private space for a buck. However, little has been done in the 10 years to make the Viaduct anything more than a parking lot.

 

The Plain Dealer recently reported that “Authorities said money for the bribes came from an unnamed company that was a landlord to the engineer’s office. County records show that K&D Group runs Stonebridge, a residential and commercial building on the West Bank of the Flats. The company paid $143,000 in consulting fees to a Dimora ally that were used to pay for limo rides, gambling trips and other perks for Dimora, prosecutors said.”

 

There should have been an editorial right then demanding K & D be jettisoned as the County’s developer of the old Ameritrust building and its buildings.

 

The question remains what are the County Commissioners going to do with the properties bought so cavalierly from Jacobs now? Just how much in taxpayer funds are going to be expended on this obviously smelly deal?

 

May I make a little suggestion to those who want to reform County Government? Have the commissioners legally responsible to have multiple hearings on any legislation that involves more than $100,000.

 

That is, force the commissioners to discuss what they are doing before the public, rather than act typically at one County Commissioner hearing, having already decided in private in almost all cases what their decision will be.

 

A little more public exposure – and a little more work – is in order for these three elected officials.

 

This one day of meetings every week – now the routine - seems to me a rather relaxed way of doing business. Say, it’s the Earl Turner Method of Management. It needs a goose.

 

  

 

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