Former Cleveland Ward 8 Councilwoman and Former Council Majority Leader Sabra Pierce Scott
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson
Cleveland NAACP President and Former Cleveland City Council President George Forbes
Former Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White
Cleveland Ward 16 Councilman and Former Cleveland City Council President Jay Westbrook
Ohio State Rep. Bill Patmon (D-10), a former Cleveland city councilman and former candidate for Cleveland mayor
Cleveland Ward 8 Councilman Jeff Johnson
Former Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven Terry
Cleveland Developer Michael Forlani
Cleveland Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed
Cleveland Ward 6 Precinct Committeeman John A. Boyd
By Kathy Wray Coleman, Editor of The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)
The never-ending Cuyahoga County corruption probe that has ripped the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and netted to date over 50 guilty pleas or convictions, including two former county judges and former counter auditor Frank Russo, has dipped into city hall and into Cleveland's Black community as former Cleveland City Councilwoman Sabra Pierce Scott was charged yesterday with bribery in office in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.
And the celebrated case has rocked the old Black political guard of the predominantly Black major metropolitan city, including its mayor, given her affiliation with him and other key Black leaders, including Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes, a former Cleveland City Council president and political associate of Pierce Scott.
In addition to Black city council members who represent Cleveland's majority Black east side wards, Pierce Scott has strong political ties to west side council persons, all White, including long term Ward 16 Councilman Jay Westbrook, once city council president too, and a Pierce Scott mentor who reportedly said yesterday after news of the criminal charges broke that she is a gem and that he sympathizes with her.
"I have no comment and I was not a part of council's leadership team," said a west side city council person on condition of anonymity.
Pierce Scott, 52, is the second elected Black official charged next to former Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven Terry, who faces up to five years in prison and a $250 thousand fine after an Akron federal jury convicted him of crimes in office earlier this year. She is by most standards the closest political ally to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to fall from grace in connection with the ongoing political corruption probe.
The announcement of the charges drew a shock wave across greater Cleveland's political spectrum with some pandering "but there for the grace of God go I."
Now a full time student seeking a master's degree at Case Western Reserve
University, Pierce Scott served as the majority leader of council under Jackson. After abruptly resigning mid-term in 2009 under a cloud of suspicion, she was Jackson's campaign manager relative to the 2009 non-partisan mayoral runoff against Bill Patmon, a current state representative whom she upset in 2001 to snatch the Ward 8 council seat, a high powered political position representing Cleveland's historical Glenville neighborhood on the city's majority Black east side of town. And it came with a political price, some say, and with the help of Michael R. White, a former Ward 8 councilman himself and the articulate and audacious three term mayor who opted not to run for reelection in 2002 and moved without fanfare out of Cleveland to an Ohio Alpaca farm with his White wife, a former Lakewood, Oh. councilwoman.
Before Patmon and Pierce Scott, and after White, current Ward 8 Councilman Jeff Johnson held the controversial seat, regaining it in 2009 in a runoff against Shari Cloud, whom council appointed to replace Pierce Scott.
Johnson could not be reached for comment.
Jackson media spokesperson Andrea Taylor said the mayor is in Japan and had no comment, though he reportedly released a statement to the Cleveland Plain Dealer Newspaper in support of Pierce Scott, comments highlighted in a comprehensive article today on the former councilwoman's criminal troubles that is written conspicuously under the name of "the Plain Dealer staff."
"I don't know the full story right now but Sabra treats people with warmth and respect, and she looked out for seniors," said Community Activist Ada Averyhart, 77."It is nothing but a plan by the Republicans to target Democrats and that is why everybody charged is a Democrat."
But not all community strongholds are as sympathetic as Wesbrook and Jackson purport to be, with Cleveland Ward 6 Precinct Committeeman John A. Boyd, an unsuccessful runoff candidate in 2008 against Cleveland Ward 6 Councilwoman Mamie Mitchell, blasting Jackson and Pierce Scott, among others.
"It's a classic example of the chickens coming home to roost," Boyd said. "I always believed that Sabra was shady and protected by Frank Jackson. Its just a microcosm of the corruption that has permeated Cuyahoga County, including the City of Cleveland."
The criminal information, which was issued instead of an indictment since Pierce Scott is cooperating with federal prosecutors, accuses her of taking $2 thousand in cash from developer Michael Forlani, a former president of Doan Pyramid Electric and top owner with Veterans Development LLC, a company vested with a $1.25 million contract from the City of Cleveland to build a parking garage and apartment building to boaster the nearby Louis Stokes VA Medical Center. In exchange for the money and a job for her son, the information accuses the former councilwoman, who served eight years before resigning two years ago, of pushing the land project and legislation for tax breaks for Forlani, who has not been charged, and for his companies, and of helping them to buy land owned by the city.
Cleveland Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed had sparred with Pierce Scott over the dearth of minority contractors on the $1.25 million land project with Pierce Scott allegedly telling Reed to mind his own business.
Reed did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Some Blacks say the delay in prosecuting a Black elected official of Cleveland was orchestrated and that Pierce Scott is a target by race of the FBI, allegedly like Terry, one of only two county judges to be prosecuted and convicted, and one of only two Black men serving at that time on the 34-member Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Others, however, say it was just a matter of time before key elected officials of the City of Cleveland were brought to task for their alleged malfeasance to the detriment of the community.
"It was just a matter of time that they would get former and current elected officials of Cleveland and I doubt that this is the last," said Roz McCallister, who hopes to unseat Cleveland Ward 12 Councilman Anthony Brancatelli next year when Cleveland's 19 city council seats are up for grabs. "But then what would I know about the ins and outs of Democrats since I am Republican."
Reach Journalist Kathy Wray Coleman at www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number: 216-932-3114.