On Election Day 2009, Cuyahoga County voters comfortably approved a new system of local government.
The government led by three county commissioners is scrapped, replaced by a new 11-member county council and a single executive elected by voters across the county. A widespread corruption scandal involving former Commissioner and county Democratic Party Chairman Jimmy Dimora sparked the change.
Residents seeking the a government with more checks and balances fueled the calls for a new structure. Thus far, the results have been mixed.
Former Lakewood Mayor Ed FitzGerald was sworn in as the county’s first executive in January of 2011. He earned some praise for his reform efforts, but also came under fire after his name came up in a brief section of the Dimora probe (FitzGerald was not accused of criminal wrongdoing). FitzGerald only served one term and was the Democratic nominee in Ohio's 2014 gubernatorial election, losing to incumbent John Kasich in a landslide.
Former Ohio House Speaker Armond Budish succeeded FitzGerald in 2015. Shortly after he won four years later, his administration began facing charges of misconduct: His offices were raided this past February as part of an FBI corruption investigation, and a scandal involving inhumane conditions and inmate deaths at the county jail has erupted. Multiple top officials (including former jail director Ken Mills) have either been charged with or convicted of crimes, and while Budish has not been at this time, at least one lawsuit has accused him of covering up the issues at the facility. Voters also passed a ballot issue in November that takes away some of Budish’s powers over the county sheriff.
As for the man whose tenure led to the push for changes, he is now behind bars. Jimmy Dimora was sentenced in 2012 to more than two decades in federal prison, but in a 2018 interview with 3News denied he was the monster he has been portrayed to be.
“Listen, I’m guilty of a lot of things,” he said. “I’m guilty of many bad choices in my friends that I chose. I’m guilty of making a bad choice of my trial counsel. I’m guilty of not following my gut to testify at my trial.”