Cuyahoga corruption: William Neiheiser pleads guilty to old and new charges

2:38 PM, Nov 4, 2010   |    comments
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Neiheiser, 62, was indicted Sept. 15, along with Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora and others.

These new charges are in a bill of information, usually filed when a defendant is cooperating with authorities.

Neiheiser was president of Reliance Mechanical, a heating, cooling and plumbing business.

"Have I given things to public employees? I have. I now know that is against the law," Neiheiser said.

He also owns a firm that leases Lakewood's city-owned Winterhurst Ice Rink.

The new charges claim Neiheiser conspired to bribe former MetroHealth Medical Center executive John J. Carroll and a CMHA executive.

Prosecutors claim Neiheiser conspired to bribe the CMHA executive with golf trips to Florida and sporting events tickets.

Defense lawyer and former Federal Prosecutor Richard Blake is representing CMHA director George Phillips.

He admits Phillips is Public Employee 30 mentioned in legal paperwork.

He issued a "no comment" on  his client's behalf.

In previous charges, prosecutors claimed Neiheiser did free or cut-rate home improvements for Dimora to try to get work on the new juvenile justice center and used Dimora's clout to get foot-in-the-door for  a lease for Lakewood's ice rink.

New County Executive-elect and Lakewood Mayor Ed FitzGerald took a phone call from Dimora about that. He met with and took Neiheiser's proposal. Neiheiser wound up getting the ice rink deal.

Neiheiser's lawyer Robert Rotatori said FitzGerald did nothing illegal.

FitzGerald's mention as Public Official 14 in federal legal paperwork became an issue in the campaign.

So far, Neiheiser has paid to improve the ice rink and the City of Lakewood has not paid him. 

FitzGerald, a former FBI agent and assistant prosecutor, claims he did nothing wrong.

Neiheiser's lawyers characterized his gifts and payments to public officeholders and officials as "gratuities" not bribes, because there was no specific quid pro quod.

Prosecutors will ask that Neiheiser get between 37 and 46 months.

Neiheiser will be required to pay back $40,000 in restitution, which will include the following: $27,845 to MetroHealth; $4,700 to Cuyahoga County; and $8,000 to CMHA.

He will be sentenced Feb. 17.

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