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Blog: Moreland Hills Police Chief still waiting for felony trial

6:23 PM, Aug 18, 2013   |    comments
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Once again the trial of on-unpaid-administrative-leave Moreland Hills Police Chief Tom Flauto has been continued, this time until October 1. He had been scheduled for trial last Wednesday and, before that, the original trial had been scheduled for May 1, according to court records.

Flauto, now 69, of Solon, had been the police chief for more than 11 years until his Feb. 13 indictment for allegedly improperly accessing the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation database five years ago -- between June 1 and July 15 of 2008 -- as a favor to then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.

Flauto's charge is a criminal charge and a felony. The case is being heard by Madison County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert D. Nichols.

Dimora was convicted last summer and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for racketeering, conspiracy, bribery and other corruption charges. He is appealing.

On July 28, 2008, the FBI and the IRS, with more than 100 agents, conducted simultaneous raids on the homes and offices of many Cuyahoga County businesses and elected officials, including Dimora and then-Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo.

It was later revealed that Dimora and Russo were the main targets but at least 50 other people have pleaded guilty or been found guilty, including two then-Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court judges. 

What is their connection? Flauto was commander of the Bedford Heights detective bureau when Dimora was Bedford Heights mayor.

In preparation for the October trial, subpoenas were served July 1 by Cuyahoga County Sheriff's deputies on Dimora's wife, Lori Dimora, at her home in Independence and on two members of the Moreland Hills police department via the police dispatch center.

I am not naming either officer because it is alleged that Flauto directed one or both to make the database search without telling them why and it does not appear that they knew it was an alleged search for Dimora. 

Why aren't you hearing much about any of this? It's because the case was filed in Madison County, Ohio, where BCI is located and is being heard there.

Documents show that the license plate allegedly searched for was 'GOLFER,' which, at the time, belonged to an Independence woman, according to the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles. 

Flauto, who pleaded not guilty on March 1, was hired by then-mayor Charles DeGross and was placed on leave by current Mayor Susan Renda. Flauto was making $83,000 annually.

In mid-March, Renda hired former Maple Heights and Richfield police chief Dale Canter, 66, on a six-month agreement to oversee the 14-person department. Canter was expected to work a 28-hour week for six months at $57.51 an hour. That original arrangement is set to expire in mid-September and will likely be extended now.

Know that the FBI went to Moreland Hills and Renda in November 2008 with a subpoena for records, also asking that the village not begin an internal investigation of Flauto. Nothing was heard about it until the Madison County grand jury indicted Flauto in February 2013.

(In an effort of full disclosure, I covered Moreland Hills as a reporter for Sun Newspapers from November 1995 until December 2007.)

It was five years ago last month that the corruption probe first went public and there are still several defendants who still have to be sentenced.

The probe is not over but, in the interest of justice, lets hope that this cloud over the village gets resolved sooner rather than later.  

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