Current, Former Cuyahoga County Officials Plead Not Guilty
Two former Cuyahoga County officials and one current employee pleaded not guilty to charges in Common Pleas Court Monday. Judge Nancy Fuerst presided over their arraignments and set a $10,000 personal bond for each defendant.
Former IT general counsel Emily McNeeley, former jail director Kenneth Mills and current Chief Talent Officer Douglas Dykes made their first appearances in court after a grand jury indicted them last month on a range of felony and misdemeanor charges.
After the defendants entered pleas and were given bonds, the case was assigned - by random draw - to Judge Fuerst. The first pretrial is set for February 11.
Speaking to reporters after this morning's arraignment, Dykes' attorney, Anthony Jordan, called the indictment against his client “a stretch”.
Prosecutors charged the three after a year-long investigation that touched on county IT contracts, the county jail and benefits for top county officials.
McNeeley was charged with telecommunications fraud, having an unlawful interest in a public contract and other offenses.
Prosecutors accused her last month of steering $1.2 million in contracts to Hyland Software without disclosing that her wife, an employee at Hyland, also owns stock in the company.
They also accused her of recommending the approval of a $9 million contract to IT company Ciber without revealing that her father had been convicted of taking a bribe from the company.
“We did not expect that she would be charged. Now that she has been, we're declaring her innocence in every one of the charges,” said McNeely's attorney Roger Synenberg outside the courtroom. “There's a lot behind this whole story.”
Mills faces charges including tampering with records, telecommunications fraud and falsification.
Prosecutors said he lied to investigators about his dealings “with a high-level Cuyahoga County official.” They also said he lied to county council about the role he played in allegedly blocking the hiring of nurses at the jail.
“I can just tell you right now Mr. Mills is entering a plea of not guilty. It's pending litigation,” said Mills' attorney Kevin Spellacy responding to reporters after the arraignment.
Dykes faces charges of theft in office, tampering with records, obstructing official business and falsification. He’s accused of improperly converting moving expenses into a $15,000 signing bonus for the county’s deputy chief information officer.
“He’s a lifelong public servant who gained nothing from a managerial decision – a decision about a bonus that the county has already made a deal for repayment from the person who actually benefited from it, which was not my client,” said Jordan.