Allegations of Official Misconduct
Recorder Resigns, Takes Federal Plea Deal
by David Bloys
Cuyahoga County Recorder Patrick O'Malley has a
problem with women. He says they ruined his life and destroyed his
career. He also had a problem with Web sites - those he visited and the
one he maintained for the county. O'Malley's guilty plea last Thursday
is shedding light on the arrogant official's 20-year career and how
problems with women, web sites and patronage brought it all to an abrupt
The charges of importing and transporting obscene
materials O’Malley pleaded to
carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a
$250,000 fine. The actual sentence in the case will be
determined by a court hearing scheduled in August.
The investigation into O’Malley has been ongoing
since FBI agents first seized personal computers from O’Malley’s home in 2004
after his ex-wife tipped federal authorities to possible crimes.
O'Malley's lawyer, Ian Friedman, declined to detail
the nature of the computer images that led to O'Malley's plea. He said
the images did not include child pornography but said O'Malley's
computer contained adult images that jurors may have considered
"There is certain material that crosses the line,"
Friedman said. "I can't comment on the exact nature. I think it will be
debated at sentencing."
Prosecutors told U.S. District Judge David Dowd
during the hearing that O'Malley accessed the images through an America
Online account between February 1998 and November 2004. The charge
states that, on or about Feb. 18, 1998 through Nov. 10, 2004, O'Malley
used an "interactive computer service for the carriage in interstate and
foreign commerce of numerous obscene, lewd, lascivious and filthy
pictures, writings and other matters of indecent character, all in
violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1462(a)."
It isn't known what charges were taken off the
table during O'Malley's negotiations. According to The Plain Dealer
the obscenity charge is used almost exclusively when defendants
negotiate with investigators and then plead guilty.
In the past few years the county recorder and
Democrat leader with a reputation for brawling, both politically and on
the street, has been plagued with problems that question his ethics.
Problems with women
In July 2004 O'Malley was arrested on a misdemeanor
charge of domestic violence against Vicki, his second wife. The case was
thrown out but Ms. O'Malley said her ex-husband used political
connections to get a special July 4 holiday hearing in order to get out
of jail early.
In November, FBI agents raided O'Malley's Chagrin
Falls home. The search warrant said agents were looking for evidence of
a business deal that O'Malley helped broker and images of child
pornography. Two personal computers belonging to O’Malley were
confiscated. The incident might have gone unnoticed until Vicki made the
records public by placing information about the search in her Ohio
Lottery personnel file thus tipping the media.
O’Malley’s problems with women continued the
following year when ex-girlfriend Marion Rivera called police in two
suburbs, over a few days, complaining that O'Malley was verbally abusive
O'Malley said he caught Rivera cheating and threw
her out. He vowed to quit dating for a while. "Women have ruined my
life and career," he said.
But that didn’t stop him from asking
Cathy Luks to lunch at a popular political hangout
in January 2008 shortly after she filed to run against him for Cuyahoga
County recorder. Midway through their 75-minute meeting O’Malley offered
Luks a $50,000-a-year job in his office if she dropped out of the race.
Luks, a former North Royalton mayor, may have been aware of O’Malley’s
history of offering jobs for political favors. She refused his offer and
documented the conversation with a recorder hidden in her pocket and
provided the tape to local media.
With the county recorder's seat now empty, the
county Democratic Party must find a replacement to fill his seat and run
for election against Luks, a Republican, in the November general
election. Other than judges, there are currently no elected Republican
leaders in Cuyahoga County government. For now, O'Malley's chief of
staff Tom Roche is running the recorder's office until and unless the
county commissioners appoint an interim candidate
"It doesn't matter who the Democratic machine comes
up with. There can no longer be one-party rule if there is to be
accountability," Ms. Luks said, in an interview with the Plain Dealer.
Problems with Workers
month The Plain Dealer exposed widespread problem with worker
patronage in O'Malley's office. A review of his 2007 payroll showed he
gave out nearly three dozen jobs, with a combined payroll of $1.4
million, to politically connected people and their family. The day
after The Dealer reported widespread patronage was exposed at his
office, O'Malley's staff set off on a review of the spending and
employment numbers of fellow Democratic officeholders.
O'Malley's inquiry focused on County Auditor Frank Russo,
Treasurer Jim Rokakis and Engineer Robert Klaiber, according to e-mail
between county workers.
O'Malley's probe turned up very little that might help him with his
patronage problems. It showed the number of workers at the auditor's
office was 5 percent higher in 2007 than in 1997, engineer jobs
decreased by 35 percent and treasurer jobs dropped 18 percent.
O’Malley’s recorder positions climbed 19 percent. in the same period
according to budget office numbers.
can't say how he planned on using that information," Sandy Turk, the
county budget director said. "I can't even say why he selected those
month, The Plain Dealer reported at least a third of the
employees on O'Malley's 2007 recorder payroll landed their jobs
through political connections, including ward leaders and precinct
committee members who helped him gain the recorder's job in 1997. The
story also said, O'Malley employs nearly twice as many people as the
Franklin County recorder.
wasted no time ordering an immediate inventory of computer equipment
in O'Malley's former office. Russo issued the order the day after
O'Malley resigned. The reason: O'Malley barred county workers from
conducting an annual state-mandated review of the equipment. The ban
goes back at least four years.
rudely threw [my staff] right out." Cuyahoga County Information
Services Center Director Dan Weaver recalled on Friday. "It didn't
surprise me, knowing his personality."
Problems with Web Sites
O’Malley was busy viewing obscene materials on his private computer,
the County Web site developed and designed by O’Malley’s office and
outsourced to Broma Information Technology is obscenely displaying
private information belonging to Cuyahoga County citizens and allowing
data mining companies to download the sensitive information in bulk
According to O’Malley’s site, the information is "provided to allow
the citizens of Cuyahoga County, and the world, access to information
housed at our office." But in 2006, employees with the county web site
acknowledged that unnamed
companies were using
'bots' (automatic retrieval programs) to mine the site and then
reselling the data to unknown parties worldwide.
Ostergren warned the public that the Cuyahoga County Recorder's office
was trafficking in sensitive citizen data through the county Web site.
Ostergren operates a consumer advocate site called
The Virginia Watchdog where she documents major breaches of
private information by county and state run web sites.
November 2007 this very active watchdog focused her attention on the
Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Web site and announced, "if you know where
to look, you can find thousands of
Social Security numbers.
“The Cuyahoga County Web site should be shut down immediately since
it's spoon feeding criminals and has been for years," she said. (See
Virginia Watchdog Takes a Bite Out of Ohio)
Cuyahoga County officials ignored Ostergren’s warning as well as pleas
from local citizens to purge their sensitive data. Even today,
it remains very easy for anyone, from anywhere in the world, to view
Social Security numbers contained in images of deeds, mortgages and
tax liens the county provides online. What you won’t find are
references to O’Malley’s embarrassing term in office.
move that belies the usually cumbersome and slow-moving nature of any
government body, it only took a few hours to purge the Cuyahoga County
Web site of any picture or mention of the former Cuyahoga County
official. Except for his signature and official seal which appear on
many of the documents, references to O'Malley have been removed.
O’Malley isn't the first official to ignore public concerns about
government Web sites and the role they play in organized identity
theft. The issue of government Web sites obscenely displaying citizens
Social Security numbers swept candidates in and out of office in 2006.
Voters sent a clear message that ignoring their need for security is
dangerous for political futures.
was particularly apparent in Ohio where Secretary of State J. Kenneth
Blackwell was sued in March of 2006 for exposing thousands of Ohio
residents Social Security numbers on the Secretary’s website.
Blackwell was making a bid for the Ohio Governor’s position at the
time. Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Gregg Hartman was the
Republican nominee on the fast track to fill Blackwell’s position.
Hartmann learned the hard way that voters are more concerned with
having their privacy protected than having elected officials serve the
wishes of businesses outside their jurisdiction. Democratic candidate
Jennifer L. Brunner produced a plan that promised to stop the
outsourcing of confidential information to private contractors and
return the responsibility of protecting Ohioans’ private information
to Secretary of State employees.
ran televised ads exposing the Blackwell breach and showing over 100
victims of identity theft entering a courtroom to testify against
criminals who had used Hartman's website to steal their identities.
Brunner defeated Hartman by a margin of 55%. Blackwell, the republican
hopeful in the gubernatorial race, received only 36.65% of the vote
against Democratic candidate Ted Strickland’s 60.54%
Potential Flight Risk?
O’Malley’s troubles with women, Web sites and workers may have led to
his guilty plea and resignation but court records and sources close to
the story hint that he may also be a potential flight risk. WKYC
Channel 3 News reported Thursday that O’Malley plans to leave the
country. During the plea hearing Judge David D. Dowd Jr. released
O’Malley on a $100,000 unsecured bond but required him to surrender
O’Malley does leave the country, he won't be the first county official
to run from justice when faced with serving time in a federal prison.
February former Texas Hidalgo County District Clerk Omar Guerrero
was captured by Mexican
State Police in Reynosa, Mexico where he had been hiding for two
and a half months after a warrant was issued charging the Republican
clerk with sexual crimes. The warrant charged Guerrero with sexual
assault and with retaliation against a fifteen year-old-girl. Guerrero
allegedly had sex with the young girl numerous times and the victim
claims he threatened to use his political position to harm her and her
family if she reported the assaults.
months after Guerrero's capture, Missouri State Police launched a
statewide manhunt former Butler County Clerk John Dunivan,
60, who disappeared after being accused of sexually abusing two
children under 12 years of age. When the state police manhunt failed
to produce Dunavan, A
U.S. magistrate in St.
Louis issued a warrant for "unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.”
Dunivan is still on the run and was
featured last month on Fox TV’s popular series America’s Most
O'Malley has a problem with women, web sites and patronage. The
American people have a problem with elected officials who use their elected position to exploit
the people who elect them.
Get the newsletter