AKRON, Ohio - Taxpayers were shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to rent modern space for a new county engineer's office, as Jimmy Dimora held poker parties and met women at an exclusive Flats condo, right across the street.
Government prosecutors implied in federal court Monday afternoon the lease deal was approved by Dimora when he was county commissioner, and then the payoff came a few years later.
The connection between the so-called party condo and the rent for the engineer's office was Kevin Payne. Now deceased, Payne was the former chief of staff at the county engineer's office.
The condo, where Dimora allegedly partied and met escorts, was in the same complex as the engineer's office – Stonebridge.
In June 2003, county commissioners approved the engineer's office request to lease new offices from Stonebridge Center, LLC for nearly $4 million over 10 years.
Rent started in August of that year at more than $350,000, and increased each year until it was at more than $445,000 in the last year, which begins this August.
U.S. attorneys pointed out Dimora did not recuse himself from the vote.
Defense attorneys pointed out Dimora was not the only commissioner – there were two others to vote in 2003 on the location switch for the engineer's office.
By 2007, the Stonebridge complex was started, with more than a thousand condo units still to be built.
Then in 2008, Payne provided Dimora with a key to a two-bedroom, two-bath condo, with skyline and river views. Prosecutors said Dimora used that condo for his personal pleasure.
Prosecutors also implied Dimora received other benefits from Payne in the years between the engineer's office vote and the condo use.
Documents shown in court showed Payne provided Dimora with several limo rides to various locations around Northeast Ohio, including ferries to Kelly's Island and Marblehead, Windsor, Ontario, and Independence High School, where Dimora's children went to school.
Payne had an open account with A Touch of Class limo service. He had been the company's attorney before the engineer's office move.
The owner of the limo company is Frank Pistone, a lifelong friend of Payne's. Pistone testified Payne ended his attorney's services to the limo company when the engineer's office relocated. "He wanted to make sure everything went smooth," Pistone said.
Pistone testified he last talked with Payne in 2009, about a year before Payne died.
Cross examination of Pistone will begin following a short afternoon break.
Earlier in the day, the jury heard wiretap calls of Dimora and others talking in detail about the escorts brought to the condo Dimora was using at Stonebridge.
Newsnet5 crews noticed Dimora's wife, Lori, did not accompany Dimora to court Monday, nor had she for several days prior to Monday's testimony.
Dimora and co-defendant Michael Gabor face federal racketeering and corruption charges. Both say they are innocent.
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