PAST OFTEN HIDDEN FROM US ON PURPOSE

Submitted by Roldo on Wed, 02/18/2009 - 14:08.

During the first anti-trust trial between the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. (CEI), I walked up to the company’s former chairman Elmer Lindseth. He had been attending the trial as a spectator. I asked the 78-year old retired executive if he ever had expected to see the day that the corporate leaders of CEI would ever be brought into a court of law by the city. He hesitated to answer. I asked him if maybe he didn’t want to respond. He smiled and said, “The times are different and things change.” Things do change. They also often also remain the same. So we have to pay attention to our past. It reveals our future. I wrote at that time that the “material involved in this case will keep writers busy for many years” because the seeds of how a city is operated and who rules were there. I was wrong. The important question of who rules rarely gets examined. Only when someone goes back and reviews all the material for a book will this historic fight between CEI and Muny Light really be told, I thought in 1980. Of course, I realize now that will never happen. I’ll continue to tell the story because it has the ingredients to alert the public to the possibilities of the past as a path to the future. Most of what I’ve written in these articles had never appeared in the Plain Dealer or Press. That is until CEI pushed too hard. CEI complained and the PD removed a reporter assigned to finally tell the story. The reason the PD gave for taking Bob Holden off the story in 1979 was odd. They said he would be unfair. In the future. How did they know? CEI executives told them. Holden was not a typical PD reporter. He went public on his demotion and eventually resigned. In the end the PD – embarrassed by a by-line strike and picketing of the paper by reporters (they used to do that in those days) – assigned two reporters, including Dave Abbott, now head of the Gund Foundation, to actually reveal the embarrassing story of CEI’s sabotage of the city’s asset, Muny Light. (At the time, the sale of Muny Light was on the ballot. It was losing badly, according to polls. After the PD revelations, the voters rejected the sale by a 2-1 vote. This showed the power of news exposure.) Much of this, of course, was being played out as Mayor Dennis Kucinich was fighting to keep the municipal light plant. Business leaders, especially at Cleveland banks, were trying to dispose of the mayor. Krupansky joined the pincer movement. The historic battle was filled with intrigue. The city won an anti-trust victory before the U. S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1977, an election year. Yet Mayor Ralph Perk fired the Washington law firm that won the decision. The firm, headed by a former Federal Power Commission chief trail lawyer, worked on a contingency basis. Despite this the firm was paid $200,000 and dismissed by Perk. U. S. Judge Robert Krupansky continued to pressure the city to pay CEI for charges disputed by the city. Even Krupansky became concerned about his appearance of bias. A Plain Dealer story quoted Krupansky saying the historic trial would “be boring.” Krupansky, aware of his faux pas, tried to get the reporter to change his quote. Rather than “boring,” he wanted the word “technical” used. It was too late for the change. It appeared in the newspaper. Krupansky pressed the city to pay its disputed debts to CEI. The dispute was about overcharges and forced sales of more power than required by the city. When Kucinich became mayor his law director Jack Schulman devised a plan to use city-owned land as security for payment of the debts. Krupansky was pushing for the city to put the debt into the city’s budget, threatening the city for looking at other means, the city charged. “The zeal with which the court (Krupansky) pursued the payment of these debts from operating funds of the city to the exclusion of all other considerations persuaded me that the court had a fixed intention to use the debts as ground for compelling the dismissal of the entire case. My conviction was strengthened when on March 3, 1978, the court held the city in contempt and ordered that a fine of $25,000 (be paid)…. I became persuaded that the court was not impartial and that no reasonable person could find that the court had acted or would act impartially toward the city,” the law director wrote. Liens against city assets were threatened. At one point, CEI took legal action that resulted in city equipment be tagged as its property. This made the items off limits to city use. Krupansky finally told the city to pay up or the city’s anti-trust case would be tossed out of court. Holden, after he left the PD, testified to Krupansky’s attitude toward the city. “I attended a hearing in this case and witnessed very hostile and intemperate behavior by Judge Krupansky toward lawyers and other representatives of the city. “Time and time again, without exception at any hearing or proceeding I attended, the Judge’s rulings were always adverse to the position advocated by the city. It became possible to predict with great accuracy what the judge would do in advance of his ruling,” testified Holden. Abbott, who had also left the PD by this time, concluded similarly. “His treatment of counsel for the city (was) with open disrespect and counsel for the defendants with obvious deference,” said Abbott. Another former city lawyer accused Krupansky of “personal hostility” toward Perk’s law director James B. Davis. The lawyer noted “the clear appearance of pre-existing personal bias, prejudice and lack of impartiality on the court’s part…” Krupansky later refused to allow Davis to participate as legal counsel to the city. Davis left office when Perk was defeated by Kucinich but he joined the city’s legal team to fight the case. Davis was a very conservative Republican. The final twist came when Krupansky pressured Kucinich to pay the entire disputed CEI debt before the year was out. The bill was $15 million. Kucinich paid the full amount. Of course, you will remember the same month, December, 1978, Cleveland banks pressured Kucinich to pay notes they had routinely rolled over for Perk. This caused the city’s default. Krupansky failed to stop the case. Cleveland, of course, lost its credit rating. Ironically, the city notes totaled almost exactly the $15 million Kucinich used to pay off CEI under Krupansky’s dictate. So it goes - in our big, little city. Down we go. More and more.

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"Cleveland banks pressured Kucinich to pay notes..."

Finally, you are getting to the part I've heard bad things about... "Cleveland banks pressured Kucinich to pay notes".

This is a great history lesson... and present lesson, as you say. Thanks Roldo - I look forward to the next chapter.

Disrupt IT

oooooh- do name names!

what was the name of the head of Cleveland Trust - he was the ring leader, no?....

Brock Weir of Cleveland Trust

Brock Weir of Cleveland Trust

So absolute power corrupts absolutely...?

I googled Brock Weir and found a 25 anniversary Point Of View reprint about him, painting a picture of the same corporate influence on the Cleveland Foundation and Cleveland I see in play today with the MedCon and SIIs, seeming to all root with Cosgrove and the Cleveland Clinic, this decade.

There is an interesting reference in your Point of View regarding Tim Hagan:

There’s a story that during the conflict with Kucinich, Weir set up a meeting in his executive offices with County Democratic chairman Tim Hagan to discuss a possible candidacy of County Commissioner Ed Feighan via Kucinich. (Kucinich defeated Feighan for mayor in the 1977.)

Amid the silver and fancy china service, Weir told Hagan, in terms that were more like orders from on high than suggestions, what would be expected from him and Feighan in the next campaign.

Hagan, no shrinking violet, was taken aback by Weir’s arrogance. He left Weir holding his teacup waiting for the answer.

Same Tim Hagan as our County Commissioner?

How does he operate with people like Cosgrove, Nance and Roman now? What changed, if anything?

Disrupt IT

It's the same Hagan. Hard to

It's the same Hagan.
Hard to believe, right?

you guys are beautiful

thank you.