AKRON, Ohio - A defense attorney for former county commissioner Jimmy Dimora on Friday morning chipped away at federal prosecutors' claims that Dimora received an ice machine, outdoor toilet, plumbing and other free work at his residence, in exchange for getting a summer job for a union official's daughter and a raise for the official's wife, who was a county employee.
Defense attorney Andrea Whitaker grilled FBI Special Agent Kirk Spielmaker, going piece-by-piece through federal wiretap transcripts and testimony about Dimora getting a county summer job for Plumbers Union Local 55 business manager Robert Rybak's daughter, Dana, and a pay raise for Rybak's wife, Linda, a county Human Resources Department administrative assistant. Prosecutors also claim Dimora got county plumbing jobs for the union's members.
During Whitaker's questioning, Spielmaker testified that personnel action on Linda Rybak's raise, which boosted her salary from over $48,000 to more than $53,000, involved the unanimous vote of all commissioners, not just Dimora.
Whitaker got Spielmaker to acknowledge that Linda Rybak's personnel file included records of training completion, positive evaluations, and letters thanking her for her work, implying her performance could have justified the raise.
Whitaker also attempted to further distance Dimora from government allegations that his actions were responsible for Linda Rybak's raise by walking Spielmaker through the transcript of a wiretap call in which Robert Rybak and Dimora intermediary J. Kevin Kelley concocted a story to mislead Dimora. In the conversation the two discussed fabricating a story of Robert Rybak and his wife having marital problems so Dimora would push for a raise for Linda Rybak in hopes she would not leave her husband.
Spielmaker also testified under cross-examination that former county commissioner Peter Lawson Jones, who in prior testimony was said to have agreed to give Rybak's wife a raise but wanted to wait until after the election, also received donations from the union.
In a wiretap call, Kelley and Robert Rybak also talked about the two other commissioners, Timothy Hagan and Peter Lawson Jones, "taking care of people" faster than Dimora.
"You did it faster than Jimmy would do it for him," Rybak told Kelley.
"He takes care of his friends," Kelley said in reference to former commissioner Jones.
"Maybe Jimmy's gotta learn that," Rybak responded.
Kelley then told Rybak, "I got Jimmy just where you want him."
Spielmaker acknowledged under cross examination that decisions on union donations were made by multiple union officials, not just Robert Rybak, and that the names of those who received donations from the union were read to all union members who attended union meetings.
Whitaker also got Spielmaker to tell jurors that the Central Services Department of the county actually hired plumbers and that the two temporary plumber jobs federal prosecutors claim Dimora got work for were two temporary positions replacing two people who had left those jobs. Spielmaker testified that all plumbers hired by the county were required to be union plumbers.
Spielmaker also conceded that Dimora and Rybak were friends who socialized, played poker, and spent time together at Dimora's home pool. Whitaker also questioned Spielmaker as to whether he learned that Dimora's and Rybak's daughters played basketball, volleyball and softball together.
In another wiretap call played Friday morning by federal prosecutors, Dimora was heard leaving a voice message for Robert Rybak thanking him for the work done on his house, but noting that the ice machine had not been hooked up properly and needed fixed.
"Thanks for coming and hooking up all the things in the patio," Dimora said before telling Rybak to "take a look at it to see if it's not hooked up right."
Later in the morning, federal prosecutors called two officials from the Plumber's union Local 55. Christine Farmer, the first witness, explained union expense reimbursements.
Sean Greller, the second witness who was then-training director for the Local 55 union, testified he performed the plumbing work at Dimora's home. At one point, jurors saw a photograph of a Dimora bathroom for which Greller said he had been "told we needed to extend an elongated bowl."
Just before lunch, prosecutors called to the witness stand Jay Ross, former Director of Central Services for Cuyahoga County. Prosecutor Rowland questioned Ross about multiple issues including what he described as a financial burden created by Dimora asking them to hire the two union plumbers and the purchase by the county of a parking garage next to the Ameritrust Building the county was considering for purchase.
During the questioning of Ross,
Dimora and co-defendant Michael Gabor have maintained their innocence of all federal charges.
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