The Investigator | Two Cuyahoga County administrators put on leave as probe widens

The move comes days after grand jury subpoenas were filed naming three top executives in Cuyahoga County government.

Two high-level Cuyahoga County administrators were put on paid leave Wednesday and Executive Armond Budish promised continued support of an investigation into potential corruption within government offices.

Budish issued a statement announcing he intends to hire forensic investigators to insure the integrity of all public records sought by criminal investigators, which include county prosecutors and the FBI.

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The move comes days after grand jury subpoenas were filed naming three top executives in county government: transformation and information officer Scot Rourke, general counsel Emily McNeeley and Budish’s former chief of staff, Sharon Sobol Jordan.

Budish told The Investigator Tom Meyer that he will continue cooperating with investigators but he does not believe any of the three committed criminal acts.

“Nobody has come to us and told us if anybody did anything wrong,” Budish said. “If anybody did anything wrong, we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”

Part of the investigation appears to focus on Jordan being on county time while she obtained a master’s degree from Ohio State University. A letter written by Budish to OSU and obtained Wednesday by Channel 3 News shows that the county executive was aware of the arrangement.

Jordan resigned earlier this month to lead become CEO of Unify Project.

Budish wrote that because of the master’s program and Jordan’s duties intertwine, “Cuyahoga County will support her participation by treating time spent at all regular activities of the program as regular work time.”

Budish previously defended the arrangement in his interview with Channel 3 News.

"The county paid nothing toward [Jordan’s] training program,” he said. “I believe that what she learned from the program has already benefited the county."

Also in question is the county’s relationship with Westlake-based Hyland Software, where McNeeley’s spouse is employed.

But Budish contends that McNeeley sought a legal opinion from the county inspector general’s office.

“I’m as much in the dark as anyone in terms of what the allegations are,” he said.

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Below is the entire text of Budish’s statement.

“As the Cuyahoga County Executive, I take my oath of office very seriously, and will not tolerate any breach of the public trust. My administration and I are fully committed to discovering any wrongdoing by any county employee and will be fully assisting the investigation being conducted by our County Prosecutor in every way possible.

To that end, my office will be taking multiple actions to ensure that the integrity of all documents sought by the prosecutor is maintained. First, my office will be immediately hiring an independent forensic investigator to make sure that all information sought in this investigation is fully secured and provided promptly to the prosecutor.

Second, I have made the difficult decision to place Scot Rourke and Emily McNeeley on administrative leave. To be clear, both had previously consulted with the Inspector General, and my administration is not aware of any wrongdoing by these two members of our staff. But, we are taking all precautions available to make sure that the integrity of the investigation and the documents sought by the prosecutor are maintained.

Further, we recognize that our County has been operating under different sets of rules for different employees. That stops now. I will be immediately requesting that County Council eliminate all special compensation “perks” from the proposed personnel handbook. Further, we will be immediately requiring all employees to fill out hourly timesheets exclusively through the MyHR system, and we will be submitting to Council a policy concerning training and education programs that applies to all county employees. Moving forward, I am instructing Earl Leiken, when he becomes new Chief of Staff, to review all county policies to ensure that they are being applied evenly and fairly for all our employees.

I want to make it perfectly clear that none of these steps should be viewed as a criticism of Chief of Staff Sharon Sobol Jordan. She is a person of high integrity and worked very hard to lead this county to great new achievements.

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Finally, I want to make it crystal clear: nothing is more important than maintaining the public trust between our residents and the County Government. We will treat each of our employees equitably and fairly, and we expect nothing less than the highest standards of ethical conduct. These steps outlined today are designed to ensure that there is no question about the policies, procedures, or conduct of our County Government or its employees.”