CLEVELAND — Editor's Note: The above video aired on January 13, 2021
Robert Fitzpatrick, a 35-year-employee of the City of Cleveland with close ties to Councilman Ken Johnson, pleaded guilty today via video arraignment on a federal charge that he conspired to commit theft from a federal program.
Fitzpatrick was charged last month in what is known as a bill of information in U.S. District Court, a signal he planned to cooperate as part of a plea deal.
Federal prosecutors say Fitzpatrick for years signed timesheets each month as documentation for work he performed for a councilman and for which he was paid directly from a councilman’s pocket. But the prosecutors say Fitzpatrick never actually performed the work nor got paid. Prosecutors say the councilman used the signed timesheets as a receipt for "ward services" to obtain $1,200 expense reimbursement from the city, the maximum monthly expense allowed under council rules.
The charges do not identify Johnson by name but earlier reporting by former Cleveland.com reporter Mark Naymik, who is now with 3News, documented in 2018 and 2019 that Johnson had received more than $160,000 over 10 year with receipts signed by Fitzpatrick. Cleveland.com also reported that Johnson was once Fitzpatrick’s guardian.
The federal charges do not detail how much the councilman obtained through the scheme nor does it detail the relationship between Fitzpatrick and Johnson, although federal prosecutors say Fitzpatrick and Johnson have had a personal relationship for 40 years.
Subpoenas obtained last month by 3News show federal investigators asked for documents related to Johnson and his aide, Garnell Jamison. The subpoenas also seek information on Ozell Dobbins, a former city commissioner with close ties to Johnson.
Johnson, Jamison and Dobbins have not been charged.
You can read the waiver of indictment for Fitzpatrick below:
More coverage from Mark Naymik: