Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants to create jobs; continue streamlining government

CLEVELAND - Monday marked the one-year anniversary of Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's inauguration.

"It's been a great first year," FitzGerald said, during an interview with NewsChannel5 Monday.

Fitzgerald said he is proud of the changes he has made to the county government. He said county operations are more open, honest, efficient and transparent than they were one year ago.

"It's not just, 'Are you better than the corruption that happened before?', but 'Are you really a national model for how things could be done?' We're not quite there yet, but we're getting there and I am proud of that," he said.

Fitzgerald said he had trouble recruiting talented job applicants because of Cuyahoga County's corruption scandal, but is now receiving calls from other government officials asking him for advice.

Last year, Fitzgerald said he cut 320 jobs without cutting services to save the county $22 million. On the advice of a consulting firm, he also recently slashed 89 employee salaries to reduce payroll costs.

Fitzgerald also created a strict ethics code immediately after taking office to help restore the public's faith in the county.

"I wasn't sure that people would give us a chance because the corruption was so outrageous in the last couple of years... I thought that people would say I don't believe anything that comes out of the county,' and people really did give us a shot," he said.

County residents voted to reform their government after a corruption scandal that involved several top leaders, including former County Auditor Frank Russo and former County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, who is currently on trial.

Fitzgerald said he keeps an eye on Dimora's trial, in case it reveals damaging information about current county employees.

He also said he is anxious for the corruption probe and trials to come to an end.

 "We don't want to be known for that. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner it's over, the better," he said.

This year, Fitzgerald plans to focus on investing a $100 million economic development fund he created in local businesses. He also said he will continue to work to shrink county government.

He plans to lay off about 100 more county workers and reduce employees' pay this year.

"I think we've proven in the last year that we can run this system. Now we have to see if  we can really change the county for the better," he said

FitzGerald will lay out the details of his plans for the county in 2012 when he delivers his State of the County speech Feb. 1.

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