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Former Cleveland State University project manager indicted for contract steering

The crimes allegedly took place from September 2013 to June 2015.

CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas has indicted a former Cleveland State University employee on five different charges involving contract steering. 

Marlene Gombach served as the project manager for CSU's Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education. During her time with the university, Gombach authorized contracts in favor of her family members, DBA Focal Point Media Solutions, to perform website design and video content, the indictment alleges. 

Gombach approved at least six contracts for the media company in which her son, Brendan Gombach, nephew Peter Matuszewski and her business associate, Robert Troxell IV, were expected to provide various services for the Cleveland Schools Bank Fund and Lorain Reads. 

In addition to the contracts, Gombach also received compensation from defendants Gombach, Matuszewski and Troxell.

The crimes allegedly took place from September 2013 to June 2015. As a result, Gombach now faces the following charges: 

  • Two counts of bribery
  • Public official or employee unlawful influence
  • Having unlawful interest in a public contract
  • Soliciting or receiving improper compensation

The Director of the CSU's Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education, Sharon Brown, was also indicted on a complicity charge. According to the indictment, Brown authorized payments to Gombach's son, nephew and business associate totaling at least $30,000, a contract valued more than $49,000 in favor of an entity owned by two of Gombach's relatives.

Brown is also accused of approving purchase requisitions for funding contracts  in favor of Gombach's family members' business entity to perform services for Lorian Reads and the Cleveland Schools Bank Fund.

"Furthermore, Sharon Brown engaged the dissemination of misleading information through various written email messages to Lorain School officials regarding the collapse of the Lorain Reads program," the indictment reads. 

The charges stem from incidents that took place between January 2014 and November 2016.  

Editor's Note: The below video aired in August 2020