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Just 2 Pages of Baxter's Testimony

Matt Westerhold • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM

The Register news team has asked repeatedly, under the Ohio Revised Code public records law, for the invoices and expenses from attorney Margaret Cannon and retired judge Joseph Cirigliano Jr. for their work during the civil service hearings for fired police Chief Kim Nuesse.

I estimated their billable hours alone from the hearings would easily top $200,000. The entire cost of the Nuesse debacle that Matt Kline launched on city taxpayers likely already is approaching $1 million.

We also have asked for the opportunity to review and copy the transcripts of Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter's testimony that Cannon's firm used during the latter part of the prolonged hearing process.

These legitimate requests, under the ORC public records law, were not honored or handled by the city in any way resembling professionalism.

The attorney city law director Don Icsman hired to deal with this basic function had not even reviewed the public records law, in my opinion, or appear to have any understanding of it when he called me recently to discuss the requests.

But earlier this week I did receive a two-page photocopy of some of Baxter's testimony, and I thought I would share some highlights:

CANNON: Have you ever been investigated by the BCI (state Bureau of Criminal Investigation)?

BAXTER: You know, I think I have been.

CANNON: Could you tell us a little bit about that to the extent that there's public information?

BAXTER: Well, over the last 10 years, one reason, of course, is that unfortunately there was a fall-out in my family. It came about as a result of my mother's death, and a will contest and there was a lady by the name of Elsebeth Baumgartner who also more or less inserted herself in that unfortunate situation and made some very serious allegations. And when you're in that position that I'm in, you know, rightfully, wrongfully, but I would probably say rightfully, that someone outside here looks at those, not because of the credibility of the allegations, but simply because the allegations have been made. And, in fact, I knew it was going on because the editor of the paper was working at the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram years ago. Matt Westerhold called me ... and alerted me and indicated to me that the BCI had just been talking to him ... he assured me that he advised them that there was nothing to those allegations.   

Baxter did exactly as Cannon asked. He told "us just a little bit about it" and skated away whistling a happy song.

Baxter's memory of his conversation with me way back then is distorted and inaccurate, and his entire testimony at the hearings remains under wraps amid questions of credibility.

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Richard Cordray does his best to make sure the report of the estimated $100,000 BCI investigation of Baxter's alleged cocaine use never sees the light of day.

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