FULL STORY The two men vying to become the state’s chief legal officer agree on at least one thing: Public corruption is not good. But that’s where their agreement ends.
Incumbent Attorney General Richard Cordray and Republican challenger Mike DeWine on Wednesday sounded off on the FBI’s arrests of top Cuyahoga County officials, including commissioner Jimmy Dimora and auditor Frank Russo.
DeWine visited the Sandusky Register and weighed in on the massive corruption probe in Cleveland, while Cordray made himself available for a brief phone interview.
DeWine, a former U.S. senator, accused Cordray of shirking his duties.
“At best, in even the best light for him, he’s not being a leader,” DeWine said. “The nicest way to say it is, he was not leading against public corruption.
“When the Attorney General of the state of Ohio won’t take the lead against public corruption,” DeWine said, “that’s a real sad day.”
DeWine said Cordray missed opportunities to step up.
There are two ways the AG could have involved himself in the investigation in Cleveland early on — a letter from Gov. Ted Strickland requesting a probe, or use the AG-controlled organized crime commission.
“If you look at the definition of organized crime, it’s a very broad definition,” DeWine said. “And it doesn’t have to be broad, really, to cover this situation (in Cleveland).
“There are many people who can be involved in a public corruption investigation,” DeWine said. “For the attorney general to sit on the sidelines month after month and not put any resources of the state into a corruption investigation — it’s not the right approach.”
Cordray said he didn’t want to blunder into the middle of a federal investigation that was already being handled effectively.
“Mike DeWine grandstands and talks about how he’d have gotten involved so much earlier,” Cordray said.
Ultimately, DeWine chalked up the difference to being proactive against crime, rather than reactive.
Cordray, however, said his office investigated numerous public corruption cases since he took office in January 2009, including three county sheriffs, half a dozen police chiefs and roughly half a dozen other officials.
“We have been very active on the public corruption front,” Cordray said, adding that he doesn’t typically publicize the results of those corruption investigations because it would amount to “grandstanding.”
“Is the criticism now that we’re not grandstanding enough?” Cordray said.
State law allows the AG’s office to launch an investigation when local officials request help. This, Cordray said, keeps Ohio from becoming a state with a police force.
Beyond that, when illegal activity involves organized crime, the state’s organized crime commission can get involved. But Cordray said this is also reliant on local officials taking action.
“That, too, operates by task forces headed by local law enforcement officials,” Cordray said.
The federal probe into Cuyahoga County’s problems started before he took office, Cordray said.
His staff eventually launched an investigation focusing on areas that the FBI wasn’t concerned with, such as property valuations.
“We continue to give the (feds) freedom of the road,” Cordray said.
But that response falls short, according to DeWine.
“That’s a lame answer for why he didn’t do his job,” DeWine said. “The attorney general should not have the attitude that, ‘Well, I’m going to wait until everybody else does it.’ He waited and waited and waited. It’s still not clear what his involvement is.”
Read an update on the Cuyahoga County corruption indictments HERE.