AKRON, Ohio - The former director of procurement and diversity for Cuyahoga County on Thursday morning said the county’s former juvenile justice center was one of the worst of such facilities in the country, if not the actual worst.
“It was pretty crappy,” defense witness Adrian Maldonado told jurors.
Maldonado testified the county looked for the “lowest and best bid” when contractors bid on contracts. He said the “best bid” included those where “All the t’s and i’s are crossed and dotted,” and that his county procurement office followed Ohio Revised Code guidelines and best bid procedures.
Maldonado testified the first round of bids for the new county Juvenile Justice Center contracts were thrown out as required by law because all bids were over 10 percent of the cost estimate. Following the second round of bids, Panzica Construction was the lowest bidder and was awarded the bid.
Prosecutors have alleged that Dimora made inquiries on the bidding process on behalf of contractor Ferris Kleem, who prosecutors said paid for a Las Vegas trip for Dimora and others. Kleem had submitted a bid but did not receive it.
Maldonado testified that at Dimora’ request, he attended a lunch at Delmonico’s steakhouse where products from Green-Source, a company affiliated with contractor Steven Pumper, were discussed. Pumper was one of the government’s star witnesses who prosecutors said did free work on Dimora’s home and was considering hiring co-defendant Michael Gabor as their salesperson.
Maldonado told jurors there were no further discussions were held with Dimora about Green-Source, and the Green-Source products were never included in Juvenile Justice Center contract specifications. He also said he never felt pressured by Dimora to have a meeting with Pumper.
Under cross-examination, Maldonado acknowledged he toured the Green-Source plant because Dimora asked him to do so. He also testified that Dimora never recused himself from votes on Juvenile Justice Center contracts.
Paul Nick, executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, arrived early and was observed in the courtroom prior to the trial starting. Nick, a defense witness, had arrived later than expected on Wednesday shortly after jurors were dismissed for the day and was told to return Thursday morning.
Dimora defense attorney, Bill Whitaker, filed a motion on Tuesday asking to admit state financial disclosure forms filed by Dimora.
“The financial disclosure forms are central to Mr. Dimora’s defense and will be used to refute the Government’s contention that Mr. (Dimora) intended to hide relationships with people that the Government contends have bribed Mr. Dimora,” Whitaker said in the motion.
Following a lengthy bench conference Thursday morning, Nick left the courtroom and Maldonado was called to the witness stand. It appeared prosecutors may have objected to admission of the financial disclosure forms, although it remained unclear as to an official ruling on the motion.
More than a half dozen bench conferences continued to delay testimony for the third consecutive day. Thursday morning’s proceedings began at 9 a.m. and one of the first bench conferences lasted 45 minutes, with additional conferences held off-and-on throughout the morning.
U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi before 11:30 a.m. dismissed jurors earlier than usual for lunch.
Following the lunch break Tracey Nichols, the former county assistant director for economic development, was called to the stand by Dimora's defense counsel.
Defense attorney Andrea Whitaker walked Nichols through county bidding, application scoring and related purchasing procedures. Whitaker asked Nichols specific process questions regarding county projects including the Coe Lake bridge project in Berea, in an apparent effort to demonstrate county officials followed routine purchasing procedures for projects prosecutors said were influenced by Dimora.
During cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Rowland, Nichols acknowledged that her staff responded to calls about projects made by Dimora and his staff.
“He is an elected official. We put priorities on all elected officials,” Nichols said in describing her department's responses to inquiries made by Dimora and other elected officials.
Nichols, after reviewing a copy of a statement she made to the FBI, also recalled contractor Steven Pumper having invoked Jimmy Dimora's name in a conversation he had with Nichols.
Rowland also asked Nichols about a county loan to the LockKeepers restaurant in Valley View, a location where Dimora often ate meals. Nichols testified that it was unusual for the county to give loans to restaurants, that the loan was in default at the time she left the county, and that she felt the owner was a "man of means" who was able to pay the loan due to other income sources.
On redirect examination by defense attorney Andrea Whitaker, Nichols acknowledged it was not uncommon in her job for her to talk with commissioners and respond to emails about various