AKRON, Ohio - A Parma car wash and pizza shop owner told jurors former county auditor Frank Russo gave him money and a county job in exchange for running a sham campaign against Russo in the 2006 election for county auditor.
Joseph Gallucci, whose work history started with "sweeping parking lots" and running a family hotel, said he wanted to work for the county because it "was more stable and I wanted some health benefits. "
"The health insurance is very favorable and after a certain period of years you're vested" in the retirement system, the now 44-year-old Gallucci testified.
To get the county job, Gallucci testified he ran a sham campaign as the Republican candidate challenging then-auditor Frank Russo, a Democrat, in the November 2006 election. Gallucci was pressured by Russo intermediaries to not drop out of the race until a deadline passed for the Republican Party to put in a substitute candidate, leaving Russo with no challenger for the auditor's job.
But Gallucci wanted to drop out of the race earlier so he could slide into a county job. So, Russo and his intermediaries came up with an incentive for Gallucci to stay in the race awhile longer.
Gallucci said Russo supplemented his income while Gallucci remained a candidate by having defendant Michael Gabor deliver to Gallucci $2,000 in cash monthly for five months.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Kelley also presented evidence showing Gallucci received an additional $2,000 per month from 1-888-Ohio-Comp as a consultant. Gallucci said Kelley had taken him to the company and introduced him to businessman Sam Lucarelli, after which time the $2,000 checks were mailed monthly to Gallucci for five months.
Gallucci said he first met with J. Kevin Kelley, a former county employee and Parma School Board member, who was also a Russo and Dimora intermediary. He said he knew Kelley "through friends" and wanted to meet with Kelley so he could "secure a job down at the county."
Kelley first told him there were no jobs available, Gallucci said. But that quickly changed.
"I said that I could raise money for Frank Russo," Gallucci told jurors. He said he told Kelley he could raise $15,000 to $20,000.
"Ok, now you're talking," Galluci said Kelley told him.
Kelley later told Galluci he could "run against Frank for a job down in the county" and he would not have to raise the $15,000 to $20,000.
"I thought it was crazy," Gallucci said, but after thinking it over he filed papers to run as a Republican candidate against Russo, a Democrat.
A federal prosecutor asked Gallucci why, at one point, he wanted to remain in the race until it ended.
"I wanted my mom to vote for me for one thing," Gallucci said.
Once Gallucci dropped out of the race, Russo hired him in November, 2006, at a salary what Gallucci described as "$67,000 and change."
Prosecutor Nancy Kelley asked him why his salary was set at $67,000 when Gallucci had earlier admitted the plan with Russo's office was for him to get a $50,000 job.
"I took it because I stayed in the race longer so no republican candidate could come in and replace me," Gallucci replied.
Gallucci said Russo later told Gallucci was making more than his supervisor. Rather than lowering Gallucci's salary, Russo increased his supervisor's pay, Gallucci testified.
Once the Plain Dealer newspaper began investigating county employee hiring, Gallucci said he was called to Russo's office and told he had to "fix" his application.
"He didn't think my application was up to snuff," Gallucci said, which had been filled out the day he was employed.
"His is really pathetic. It has to be superb." Russo told former county auditor's office employee and private attorney Joseph O'Malley in a FBI wiretap conversation. O'Malley was tasked by Russo to help Gallucci beef up his application.
"His personnel file has to suffice his salary in the high 60's," Russo said. Russo also wanted hotels and motels referenced in the application since Gallucci was working in that department.
After FBI raids of county offices, Gallucci said Russo told him: "Don't mention anything about the money. Tell them there was no money and I am a nice guy, and you're qualified for the job."
Gallucci testified that Michael Gabor also contacted him in November, 2009, at his car wash.
He said Gabor "was kinda agitated in his tone that day," asking Gallucci if anyone had contacted him.
Gallucci said Gabor told him: "You didn't pay for your job. I didn't pay for my job."
Defendants Jimmy Dimora and Michael Gabor have maintained their innocence of all federal charges.
Continue to follow newsnet5.com and NewsChannel5 for ongoing developments in the trial.
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