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Cuyahoga County Sues over 2005 Ameritrust Building Deal

Monday, June 2, 2014 at 5:30 PM

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Cuyahoga County is filing a lawsuit over the 2005 purchase of the Ameritrust building in downtown Cleveland, saying the deal was influenced by corruption. As ideastream’s Nick Castele reports, the county alleges several people improperly profited at the expense of taxpayers.

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Cuyahoga County Law Director Majeed Makhlouf explains the lawsuit at a news conference. (Nick Castele / ideastream) The county bought the Ameritrust building, center, in 2005 and sold it last year. (file photo by Brian Bull)

Roughly a decade ago, Cuyahoga County hired a company called Staubach as a consultant to help pick a spot for its new headquarters. The county paid the company $3 million. Staubach settled on the Ameritrust building, and the county bought it for $22 million.

But ultimately the county didn’t move in. It sold the building last year, and is now suing Jones Lang LaSalle, the company that took over Staubach. Officials say the suit aims to recover taxpayer money.

The lawsuit contends that Staubach hired several people to help it do business with the county, and that those same people allegedly tried to buy the influence of public officials

While the name of former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora is mentioned in the lawsuit, County Executive Ed FitzGerald noted Dimora is not being sued.

“He’s been prosecuted and he’s serving time as a result of what he did,” FitzGerald said. “But there are a lot of people that profited, and this case addresses some folks that profited.”

Jones Lang LaSalle and some of the other defendants have never faced criminal prosecution in the matter.

A statement from Jones Lang LaSalle says Staubach never recommended that the county buy the Ameritrust building—it only suggested leasing it. The statement denies any wrongdoing by Staubach, and calls the lawsuit “a complete waste of county resources.”

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Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement, Government/Politics

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