Eventually the big boys lose patience with a law enforcement officer who refuses to obey and enforce laws; and who they can prove with evidence has avoided discharging official duties in exchange for campaign cash, family favors and "I won't tell if you won't tell" secrets. An elected official with a 34 year career has done a lot of things they've forgotten; and did not do a lot of things they should have done to avoid looking like a criminal. A 34 year career in public office comes with 34 years of "public" records.

Cleveland’s mayor was unaware a building department worker was under FBI control

FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen D. Anthony chose not to inform Cleveland’s chief law enforcement officer, Mayor Frank Jackson, that he had assigned agents to investigate a city employee who they knew had been taking bribes and corrupting demolition contractors for at least 32 months.

CLEVELAND, OH – FBI special agent in charge of the Northern District of Ohio, Stephen Anthony, was quick to praise the agency’s “law enforcement partners” when he busted “controlled” terrorist Demetrius Pitts. 

Not a word was said to Mayor Frank Jackson as the city of Cleveland’s chief law enforcement officer when FBI agents Anthony supervised learned his “law enforcement partner’s” employee, Rufus Taylor, was asking contractors to give him money for special consideration on demolition contracts. 

Federal agents under Anthony’s supervision decided to withhold the information from Jackson.  Instead of working for Jackson and obeying the city’s ordinances and state laws relative to the performance of his official duties, Taylor appears to have used the authority of his city job to ensnare more vendors who had signed up to do legitimate business with the mayor’s administration.

There’s the possibility that other employees in the city’s community development and building departments may have been involved in obstructing Jackson’s ability to deliver a “bribe-free” environment for vendors to do business.  

Ex-demolition bureau manager Rufus Taylor appears to have been supervised by the FBI for nearly 32 months.

When asked by EJBNEWS if he was made aware by Anthony and the FBI agents he supervised were influencing an employee over a department of the municipal government to engage in corrupt activities, Jackson said “no.”

EJBNEWS contacted U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Mike Tobin to ask if U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman would comment about a federal agency taking over the functions of a municipal government through an employee under the mayor’s supervision and was told “no.” 

Tobin responded in an email that Taylor’s case file information and the evidence Herdman’s federal prosecutors used to secure his plea bargain conviction was not public at this point.  The federal investigation that led to Taylor’s arrest, prosecution and conviction, Tobin responded, “is ongoing.”

Taylor’s attorney, Michael Peterson, told EJBNEWS the trial was ongoing and that his client was due to be sentenced in December 2018.  Peterson said he could not comment or share the evidence used by Herdman’s prosecutors against Taylor without his permission and cited attorney-client privilege.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s news release identifies the federal agency’s perspective about the events leading to Taylor’s arrest, prosecution and conviction.  But what’s left out of the details is the role FBI agents played behind-the-scenes.

Taylor and a person identified in the charges as Contractor 1 met in November 2013 to discuss a demolition job on Parkwood Drive. The two agreed that Contractor 1 would pay Taylor $8,000 in cash in return for Taylor putting Contractor 1 on the bid list.

Contractor 1 was awarded the bid. Contractor 1 gave Taylor approximately $3,000 in cash on Dec. 4, 2013. Contractor 1 paid Taylor the additional $5,000 by November 2015.

Taylor notified Contractor 1 about an emergency demolition job on East 123rd Street and Coltman Road around October 2015. Taylor asked Contractor 1 for $12,000 in exchange for notifying Contractor 1 about the job.

Contractor 1 was awarded abatement work for the premises but never paid Taylor the $12,000.

Taylor provided bid numbers to Contractor 2 for a pending demolition job on Cedar Avenue around Aug. 20, 2015. Contractor 2 paid Taylor approximately $5,000 in cash in exchange for this information around Oct. 26, 2015.

On May 7, 2016, Taylor provided Contractor 2 the names of companies bidding on a demolition job on East 130th Street. On May 10, 2016 – the last day of the bid – Taylor called Contractor 2 and informed Contractor 2 of the then-current lowest bid on the project.

Contractor 2 gave Taylor approximately $500 in cash on May 25, 2016. Taylor contacted Contractor 2 on July 21, 2016 and said he needed some “stacks.” Contractor 2 gave Taylor approximately $300.

There is no information in the federal charges against Taylor or in the news release Herdman shared that reveals how FBI agents learned Jackson’s employee was taking bribes in exchange for him performing demolition duties connected to his job.

Former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach held the federal prosecutor’s job when it appears FBI agents were engaged in a bribery scheme with a cooperating city worker.

The extent of the FBI’s knowledge of how corruptly Taylor performed official duties, or how long the city’s demolition department was influenced by his interactions with federal agents is implied by the dates of the described incidents of bribery. 

The first bribery incident in the news release cited above was on December 4, 2013.  The last incident is dated July 21, 2016.  It’s conceivable that Jackson’s employees were interacting with FBI agents without his knowledge for approximately 32 months.  There’s no way for Jackson to immediately know what “sham” acts were committed against owners of demolished properties by city employees to further their bribery scheme.

According to Herdman’s news release, Taylor was “responsible for assigning “board-up” of vacant properties to contractors, emergency demolition jobs, and conducting inspections, which had to take place before a contractor could be paid, among other duties.”

Current U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman chose not to comment on the investigation he inherited from Dettelbach.

Taylor in the capacity of Jackson’s chief demolition official was supervised by Ronald O’Leary.  O’Leary is now the city’s housing court judge. 

O’Leary supervised the building and housing department and approved the properties, contractors and payments for emergency demolitions that would have been connected to Taylor’s performance of duties.  O’Leary previously told EJBNEWS he was cooperating with federal agents.  That news wasn’t shared with his boss … Jackson.   EJBNEWS also learned that the late Judge Raymond Pianka died of a heart attack less than a month after he received a visit from federal agents.

What should concern Jackson and city council is how the FBI and allegedly “cooperating” employees like Taylor and O’Leary identified properties to be demolished in connection with the scheme.

Frances Caldwell’s home on E. 79th was mysteriously demolished and placed in the city of Cleveland’s land re-utilization program.

Frances Caldwell owns land where a house once sat at 2057 E. 79th Street.  Next door to her property is land owned by Velimir Lucic, a local restaurant owner.  A home sat there, too, until it was torched by an arsonist.

O’Leary’s department approved a demolition contract with Lucic not only to demolish his own 79th Street home for $10,000; but gave him another $10,000 to demolish Caldwell’s on October 22, 2015 after she’d pulled permits from the housing department to repair it.  Several homes along E. 79th Street were torched by arsonists and are now in the Cleveland Clinic Foundation’s possession.  Lucic’s invoices weren’t submitted until April 13, 2016.

Housing Court Judge Ronald O’Leary worked as Cleveland’s building commissioner when Frances Caldwell’s E. 79th Street property was demolished by a contractor he awarded federal funds to demolish his own blighted home.

O’Leary’s department appears to have orchestrated a “sham” process to demolish Caldwell’s property.  Workers they supervised through Taylor claimed they didn’t know the address to contact Caldwell so they demolished the property another department under O’Leary’s control had approved permits to repair.  Caldwell’s contact address was on the housing department’s permits.

After paying Lucic to demolish his own property and Caldwell’s, demolition records show Caldwell’s property mysteriously ended up in the city’s land re-utilization program and she wants it back.

Caldwell believes she’s a victim of the FBI’s allegedly-cooperating city workers.

Community Development director Michael Cosgrove wasn’t Jackson’s community development director for a full 11 months before FBI, IRS and HUD inspector general agents raided his department on December 6, 2017 and the mayor announced his resignation on December 8, 2017. Cosgrove would have approved O’Leary’s use of federal funds for demolition.

Taylor submitted his intent to retire on December 18, 2017, which was 12 days after Cosgrove’s department was raided.  His official retirement date was January 5, 2018.  His sentencing date is December 4, 2018. 

Eric Jonathan Brewer

Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more.

Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings.

As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national.

Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year.

Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.

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