Bill Mason, at one time considered one of the most powerful people in Cuyahoga County, is returning to local politics.
The county announced Wednesday that Mason has been hired as the new chief of staff for County Executive Armond Budish. Budish praised Mason in a statement, particularly for his role in reforming the county system of government nearly a decade ago:
"Bill has a longstanding commitment to the county and has been a leader in many aspects of reform that I consider crucial to this county. He was one of the leaders in getting our new system of government in place and has been a leader in both justice reform and sustainability, both of which are key aspects of my vision for this county."
Mason was Cuyahoga County prosecutor in 2010 when the local government was hit by a wide-ranging corruption scandal, notably involving former Commissioner Jimmy Dimora. Dimora is currently serving a 28-year federal prison sentence for his crimes, and multiple others were also convicted.
However, Mason was not charged during the scandal, although he did receive criticism as much of the corruption happened under his watch. Nonetheless, he later helped write the new county government charter, which established an elected executive as the new leader along with a county council.
Mason, a Parma native and graduate of the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, was appointed county prosecutor in 1999 after his predecessor, Stephaine Tubbs Jones, was elected to the U.S. Congress. He had his share of successes, including the establishment of the Community Based Protection Unit and the Cuyahoga County Mortgage Fraud Task Force.
But Mason was also the subject of controversy: Aside from the corruption scandal, including investigations by the Ohio Ethics Commission for accusations of conflicts of interest and even intimidating a judge. He announced in 2010 he would not seek re-election, and eventually resigned two years later with less than four months left in his final term.
Since leaving the prosecutor's office, Mason has been partner in charge at the law firm Bricker and Eckler. He issued the following statement on Wednesday:
"I look forward to joining the county administration and helping County Executive Budish achieve his vision of a county where people have equal access to justice and opportunity. The administration’s focus on impacting climate change locally is also very compelling to me. I am excited to become part of the team."
The addition of Mason comes at a crucial time for Budish, who himself has been the subject of several controversies in the preceding months. Federal and state authorities raided his office back on Valentine's Day (which Budish called "a political move"), and the ongoing Cuyahoga County Jail scandal has seen multiple officials indicted in connection with what several investigations have called inhumane conditions at the facility. Budish has been named in a lawsuit involving conditions at the jail, but has not been charged with a crime.