Contract forging East Cleveland chief’s secretary held by feds

Community development director Melran Leach is over his head and may have his own troubles with federal agents because of the way demolition contracts have been steered to contractors with ties to mayors and not in compliance with federal procurement laws.

CLEVELAND, OH – Federal agents who appear to have spent the past four years investigating how dollars earmarked to demolish homes in poor census tracts have been corrupted by local government officials, landfill owners and demolition contractors escorted East Cleveland police chief Michael Cardilli’s secretary from her home in Euclid, Ohio on October 3rd.

Sources confirm that Veal was escorted by agents around 9 a.m. and released approximately two hours later.

Vanessa Veal was suspended by Mayor Brandon King on September 26th after he learned she forged community development director Melran Leach’s signature on a demolition contract intended for a company being promoted by former East Cleveland Mayor Gary A. Norton, Jr. 

The photograph from Vanessa Veal’s Facebook page shows her attending an event with former recalled Mayor Gary Norton who voters recalled in 2015. Norton was accused of being a thief by his opponent, Dr. Joy Jordan, in 2013. Norton’s wife, a former Cleveland school principal, ended up with a theft conviction after she stole over $10,000 from other principals. Norton’s mother during the 2013 campaign said her son was not a thief. His no bid and rigged contract from Veal suggests she may not know her son.

Norton had “sold” the company during a June 19th council meeting as offering to do free demolitions.  Norton told residents and council his company would demolish homes for free because he “cared for the community.”

Veal was hired in 2008 as a secretary to then chief of police Ralph Spotts.  She was disciplined by the mayor for a judgement call she made to interfere with police while off-duty and drunk.

Chief of police Michael Cardilli was so busy violating a state law that told him to stop performing a police officer’s duties without OPOTA credentials that he didn’t see his crooked secretary had rigged a contract to give her old boss. Critics have zero confidence that his investigation of the theft of $8000 in municipal court funds by an employee of Judge Will Dawson’s who drove the money to the bank instead of using armed carriers, and who claims to have been robbed by a man on a bicycle, will be any more vigilant.

In 2012 Veal was revealed by a local newspaper to have cashed a check at a local supermarket in Forest Hill Shopping Center and then reporting it lost to get another.  Instead of facing discipline Norton gave her an $8000 pay raise and told council she was “worth it.”  The East Cleveland Tattler shortly afterwards revealed that police had caught the two in a compromising position at Forest Hills Park.

Veal was assigned to control money Norton and council gave the Police Athletic League.  Former Council President Joy Jordan criticized Norton for using the money to take his and Veal’s families on out-of-town trips.

The day after Veal was suspended Cardilli was seen in her office listening to voice mail messages.  Human Resources director Belinda Kyle and Cardilli are alleged to have a close “lunch buddy” relationship. 

Kyle has expressed concern that King didn’t know she’d removed derogatory information from Veal’s personnel file and other employees. 

Citizens asking for public personnel records in Kyle’s possession have complained of how “empty” they’ve been of basic information for long time employees.

Sources at the time this post was published could not confirm which federal law enforcement agencies were involved in Veal being held and released.

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.