2012 CP P(D) Digital Dossier: McDonnell, James

2012 Digital Dossier: McDonnell, James I.          Personal Information Name:  James J. McDonnell Date of Birth and Age on Election Day:   age 55 (born June 2, 1956 (http://www.facebook.com/#!/jamesjmcdonnellesq)) Political Party Affiliation:  Democrat Home Address:   Cleveland Heights (www.jamesjmcdonnell.com) Spouse/Significant Other:   Ceci McDonnell  (http://www.jamesjmcdonnell.com/who-i-am) Children:   Two adult sons ( http://www.jamesjmcdonnell.com/who-i-am) Social/Civic/Club Affiliations: None found. II.        Educational History St. Ignatius High School (1974) Yale University (1978, B.A. History) Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law (1981) (http://www.jamesjmcdonnell.com/who-i-am) III.       Professional Background Date first admitted to bar:  Admitted in Ohio on May 10, 1982 (http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/AttySvcs/AttyReg/Public_AttorneyDetails.asp?ID=0005802 Disciplinary history:   No discipline on file with Supreme Court of Ohio (http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/AttySvcs/AttyReg/Public_AttorneyDetails.asp?ID=0005802) Legal Experience:   1982-1987 Assistant County Prosecutor, Cuyahoga County Private Practice (with father Daniel P. McDonnell) 1999-2008 Prosecutor, City of North Royalton (http://www.jamesjmcdonnell.com/who-i-am) Other Employment History:  Republic Steel, Laborer’s Local 310 (during college and law school) IV.       Criminal Record and Civil Court Involvement Criminal Record:  Nothing in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Civil Litigation:   Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas (http://cpdocket.cp.cuyahogacounty.us/p_NameSearch.aspx) Please note that Mr. McDonnell has provided an explanation of these cases in his response to Question 5 below.Maryann Paletta vs. James J. McDonnell Legal Malpractice June 15, 2007 Case No. CV-07-627231   Nancy Pekarcsik et al. vs. Lou J. Martin et al. Miscellaneous August 13, 2003 Case No. CV-03-507905   Charles Tolliver, Jr. vs. James J. McDonnell Legal Malpractice and Appeal March 14, 2002/April 3, 2003 Case Nos. CV-02-465587 CA-03-082719   James J. McDonnell vs. River Recycling Industries, Inc. Tort – Miscellaneous August 28, 2003 CV-03-509021   J.W. Walker vs. Sheldon Karp et al. Contract May 30, 2001 Case No. CV-01-440575   Duane Wilner vs. James J. McDonnell Tort – Legal Malpractice February 10, 1998 Case No. CV-98-348791   James J. McDonnell vs. Mary Wrobel Tort – Miscellaneous April 3, 1997 Case No. CV-97-332572   James J. McDonnell vs. Andrew R. Zalesky et al. Tort – Motor Vehicle Accident September 1, 1994 Case No. CV-94-276334   State of Ohio Ex Rel George A. Laguta vs. John T. Neforos, et al. Miscellaneous March 10, 1993 Case No. CV-930248675   George A. Laguta vs. Edward M. Walsh et al. Miscellaneous December 4, 1992 Case No. CV-92-243512 Bankruptcies: None found. Ethical Issues:  None found. V.        Campaign Information Campaign Address: Friends of James J. McDonnell, 75 Public Square, Suite 700, Cleveland, Ohio 44113 (www.jamesjmcdonnell.com ) Campaign Officers/Participants: Bill McDonnell, treasurer (www.jamesjmcdonnell.com ) Prior Campaigns:  None Prior Elected Offices:  None Campaign Endorsements/Affiliations (as of 12/3/11): (http://www.jamesjmcdonnell.com/endorsements) Ohio State Representative Nickie Antonio from District 13 Ohio State Representative Mike Foley from District 14 Ohio State Representative Ken Yuko from District 7 Ohio State Senator Michael Skindell from District 23 Ohio State Representative Tim DeGeeter from District15 Cleveland Firefighters, Local 93 Cleveland Heights Council Members Cheryl Stephens, Jason Stein and Mayor Edward Kelley City Prosecutors:   Hillary Goldberg - The City of Brooklyn Tim Dobeck - The City of Parma Bruce Courey - The City of Brookpark Mike Shaughnessy- The City of South Euclid Victoria Cardaman - City of North Royalton Tim Riley - Law Director and Prosecutor for the City of Garfield Heights Mike Gordillo - City of North Olmsted Tom Kelly - City of Parma Heights Pat Dichiro - City of Seven Hills Vince Ruffa - City of Broadview Heights Rich Neff - City of Lakewood Dan Taylor - City of Highland Height Tom Greve - The City of Beachwood John Castele - The City of Fairview Park Tom O'Donnell - The Law Director and Prosecutor of Highland Hills Pete Hull - City of Middleburg Heights Mayors: Mayor Susan Infeld - University Heights Mayor Dean DiPiero - Parma Mayor Leonard Spremulli - Village of Bentleyville Mayor Georgine Welo - South Euclid Mayor Vic Collova - Garfield Heights Mayor Bruce Rinker - Mayfield Village Mayor Michael Byrne - Parma Heights Mayor Mark Elliot - Brook Park Mayor Edward Kelley - Cleveland Heights Mayor Sam Alai - Broadview Heights Mayor Richard Balbier - Brooklyn Mayor Mike Procuk - Brooklyn Heights Mayor Robert Stefanik - North Royalton Mayor Robert Nash - Highland Hills City Councilmembers: Mike Kilbane, Fairview Park James McDonnell's Response to the Questionnaire I.          Integrity Have you ever held a position, public or private, where you were required to report gifts made to you or expenditures made on your behalf?  If so, when and where? No.  2. Has a complaint ever been filed against you, or any campaign committee acting on your behalf, in the Ohio Elections Commission, or Federal Elections Commission? No. 3.  What is the current balance in your campaign account? How much have you spent on your campaign?  Please identify the five individuals who have contributed the most to your campaign. Current balance: $60,000.  Spent: $30,000. Top contributors:  Ann Donahue (my cousin), Tom Kelley (my office mate), Kurt Nondorf (a college football teammate), Mark Stanton (a local attorney), Tony Vegh (a local attorney). 4. Have charges of professional misconduct been filed against you, including, if you have formerly served as a prosecutor, charges of prosecutorial misconduct?  If so, please explain the relevant circumstances. No 5.  In the last ten years, have you been a party to any civil lawsuit?  If yes, please provide the case name and nature of the suit. In the last ten years, I have been party to the following civillawsuits: a.      Paletta vs. McDonnell:  Paletta claimed I settled her case withouther consent.  The case was dismissed. b.     Pekarsic vs. Martin:  This case was dismissed. c.      Tolliver vs. McDonnell:  Mr. Tolliver was a disgruntled criminalclient that I was assigned to represent. He was charged with aggravated murder, which carried with it a lifesentence.  He was convicted of a felonyof the first degree. d.     McDonnell vs. River Recycling: I was theadministrator of the estate of a client who dies in an industrial accident. e.     Walker vs. Karp: I was assigned to represent Mr.Walker who sued Mr. Karp, President of the Bar Association. f.       Wilner vs. McDonnell: This case was settled. g.      McDonnell vs. Wrobel: This is the one time I sueda client for payment. h.     McDonnell vs. Zalesky: I sued over damages froma car accident. i.        Laguta vs. Neforos: This case was dismissed. j.       Laguta vs Walsh: This case was dismissed. 6.  Have you ever been convicted of a crime, other than a minor misdemeanor?  If yes, please provide the year and jurisdiction of the conviction. No. II.         Transparency What steps do you believe can be taken at the county level to make access to public records easier? I will ensure that the County Prosecutor’s Office follows the letter and intent of the law in order to provide access to all public records in an efficient and inexpensive manner.   It is especially important to the public trust that we provide full and equal access to information as we transition to our new form of county government.  When public record requests are not adequately executed, it is often due to a lack of training on the part of staff or a large number of requests at one time that slows their fulfillment.  As Prosecutor, I will ensure that staff is well-trained with regard to our duties to fulfill requests.  I will also work with county government to take an active approach by making public documents and information available online to the fullest extent possible.  What steps do you believe can be taken to make the operation of the Prosecutor’s office more transparent? In addition to the discussion of public records in item #7, I will do the following as County Prosecutor Establish objective criteria to guide hiring, staffing levels, diversity goals, case assignments, plea bargaining, and other important functions of the office. Ensure timely publication of written legal opinions. Conduct and publish an annual report on the office’s budget and performance, including goals and recommendations to increase fiscal efficiency and overall effectiveness.  Provide semiannual updates on progress toward goals and opportunities for public input. Engage the community in ways that keep them informed them regarding the mission of the office and allow them to have input.  Citizens are better able to benefit from public offices and hold them accountable when a mutual understanding and relationships exist.   Did you support the recent changes to permit more open discovery in criminal cases?  Explain your position. Yes.  When I became Prosecutor for the City of North Royalton in 1999, I provided open discovery to all parties.  Fair and equal access to the statements and evidence that pertain to a case are necessary to achieve just outcomes. III.       Efficiency 10.  Did you support Issue 6, the passage of which in 2009 resulted in the present structure of government in Cuyahoga County?  Explain why you held the position that you did at the time. I was enthusiastic regarding most aspects of Issue 6, with a few reservations.  When initially considering what was proposed, I wondered if the new form of government assigned too much power to one individual.  However, I support the consolidation of operations to the extent that it saves tax dollars, eliminates excess, and prevents corruption.  Mr. Fitzgerald has done an excellent job and we are starting to see positive effects from the changes that are being implemented. 11.  Do you perceive opportunities for cooperation between local and county prosecutors that may result in greater efficiency and reduced costs? For nine years, I served as Prosecutor for the City of North Royalton and I have been endorsed by sixteen City Prosecutors.  This is largely because I’m well-qualified to foster cooperation between municipal and county prosecutors.  I believe that the County Prosecutor’s Office can serve as a model for municipal prosecutors. If elected, I will encourage municipal prosecutors to examine cases and decide which should be referred to the county.  Many can be resolved in municipal courts, which can save the taxpayers’ money.  I will also work with local prosecutors to coordinate a consistent policy regarding the setting of bonds.   Perhaps the most important way we can cooperate is via the integration and sharing of data.  In the last decade, the growth of comprehensive, multi-jurisdictional, and nationwide databases has allowed information to be shared across traditional boundaries.  This has helped to decrease the “silo effect” that occurs when databases are administered separately by bureaucratic agencies that do not always communicate with each other.  When databases are not integrated, law enforcement agencies can miss out on valuable information related to the criminal history of a suspect because crimes occurred in a different jurisdiction or are classified differently based upon the type of conviction.  We must build a criminal justice system that equips our law enforcement agencies with the best tools available.  We can work locally to integrate systems in a manner similar to how the state has with the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG) database.   IV.       Competence 12.  Describe your experience working in the criminal justice system. I was an Assistant County Prosecutor for five years, Prosecutor for the City of North Royalton for nine years, for a total of fourteen years of prosecutorial experience.  I also have experience as a defense attorney, which provides an additional perspective on the criminal justice system.   I have operated a private law practice for 25 years.  No candidate in this race can match the volume or variety of my legal experience.   I have tried over 400 cases and have practiced in every court in Cuyahoga County – Federal Court, Common Pleas Court, and every Municipal Court. 13.  Have you ever run for or held public office? If so, please identify the office and the date of the election.  No. 14.  Describe your experience in administering or managing an organization, and provide details relating to the size and nature of the organization: For 25 years I have maintained a private law practice.  While running a small business is very different from managing a countywide agency, it poses a unique set of challenges that have prepared me to seek out the most effective and cost-efficient strategies to provide a high level of service to our citizens. 15.  Have you participated in preparing a budget for a business, government organization, or non-profit organization?  If so, please generally describe that experience. I have successfully managed the finances of my private practice for 25 years. 16.  Have you dealt with public finance issues (i.e.  predicting tax revenues, bond issuance, etc.) in any prior position?  Describe your experience in public finance. If such experience is limited, please describe related experience. No. 17.  Have you, or any business in which you held more than a 50% interest, ever filed for bankruptcy.  When, where? No. 18.  In any prior position, have you developed, implemented or been in charge of enforcing an ethics policy for employees? If so, please describe. As Prosecutor for the City of North Royalton, I conducted seminars with the police department regarding investigations, preparation of police reports, and trial testimony.  These seminars emphasized the ethical obligations associated with their duties as offices.  The law clearly states minimum ethical standards that apply to all public agencies, but it is also important to set standards above and beyond the minimum, and I will do this for the County Prosecutor’s Office. 19.  Have you ever held a public position where you managed employees who were subject to civil service laws.  When?  Where? No.  20.  Have you ever held a public or private position where you managed employees who were subject to a collective bargaining agreement?  When, Where? No, but as a member of the Laborer’s Local 310 and a lawyer, I understand the dynamics of collective bargaining. V.        Policy 21.  What philosophy will you follow in choosing to reach a plea agreement with a criminal defendant rather than proceeding to trial? There can’t be a sweeping policy regarding plea agreements, as no singular policy can be acceptable across all cases from a legal or ethical position.  Each case must be decided on the merits of that particular case.  The prosecutor must take into account the facts of the particular case, the defendant’s history, and input from the victims, police, and the defendant’s attorney.  Only then can a just resolution be reached.  22.  Do you believe, as a matter of policy and without regard to the status of existing law, that civil litigation involving the County is best handled by the office of the prosecutor rather than the office of the law director? Please explain your position. The County Prosecutor is statutorily mandated to follow the laws of the State of Ohio.  Ohio Revised Code section 308.01, et al enumerates what civil matters the County Prosecutor will handle.  I understand that the question asks for a response without regard to current law, but it is the responsibility of the County Prosecutor to hold the law in the highest regard.  Our next Prosecutor must not let his or her own bias affect the important mission of this office and must uphold the law, whatever it may state.  23.  Should the County Prosecutor be investigating any unresolved issues relating to public corruption? If so, which open issues? It is difficult to say what the role of the Prosecutor’s Office should be in the current scandal and it is common for an outside “special prosecutor” to be appointed to pursue cases of public corruption.  Independence, objectivity, and freedom from bias are paramount to such cases.  I would offer my assistance to the United States Attorney to the extent that I may help to examine the facts, the parties involved, or potential conflicts.  But ultimately, my involvement in the process is up to the US Attorney.  24.  Are there areas where the County Prosecutor can trim its budget while maintaining the office’s ability to pursue its obligations?  In addition to the cooperation and consolidation of functions with municipalities that I’ve already discussed, I would hire an independent entity to perform a full financial audit of the office to identify opportunities to reduce costs. 25.  If you are elected, what will be your top three goals as Prosecutor? As one of only two countywide elected officials, the most important thing our next County Prosecutor can do is to boost public confidence in Cuyahoga County and the Prosecutor’s Office.  I will do this by working toward the following three goals:  Provide a high level of service In order to be successful, an agency must prepare its staff to accomplish its mission.  To this end, I will institute improved training protocols for assistant county prosecutors.  I will also reform the grand jury system so that indictments are more appropriate to the facts of a case and assistant prosecutors are able to pursue convictions for the correct crime without distraction by charges that may be less relevant to the facts.  In addition to enhancing performance regarding the mandated legal functions of the office, I will prioritize issues with potential to improve the quality of life for our citizens.  We will do everything within our power to hold accountable predatory lenders and others responsible for the collapse of the housing market that has so devastated the area.  Input from citizens and stakeholders countywide will be solicited to identify other priorities. Increase efficiency A full financial audit will be the first step to identify opportunities for savings.  Annual reporting with semiannual updates will help to identify ways to streamline processes within the office.  Consolidation of functions and integration of data systems will promote efficient and effective working relationships between the County Prosecutor, municipal prosecutors, and other partners in our criminal justice system. Promote transparency and accountability Transparency and citizen engagement are the foundations of public accountability.  In previous items, I have identified ways in which the public will be invited to engage in dialogue that will help us to tailor the County Prosecutor’s Office to the needs of the county.  Objective, consistent criteria must be employed to make important decisions.  This will also help us work toward a prosecutor’s office that reflects the diversity of the county, which is another major priority. 26.  What are the most important steps that can be taken by the County Prosecutor to prevent the type of corruption that has recently taken place in local, county, and special governments?  The County Prosecutor has historically investigated corruption.  The County Prosecutor must keep a vigilant eye and set the tone regarding corruption.  As one of only two countywide elected officials, the County Prosecutor is in a position where it is important to lead by example.  The prosecutor’s office must perform its due diligence in support of the US Attorney, which is the office best equipped to investigate local issues of corruption when they exist.  But the key is prevention, and the transparency that I have discussed is the best approach the Prosecutor’s Office can take.  27.  Do you support the proposed change to state law that would give prosecutors the right to demand a trial by jury?\ Yes.  I support the change in state law because there is no constitutional right to a trial by judge. 28.  Has the system changed adequately in response to the revelations following the arrest of Anthony Sowell on the issue of responsiveness to allegations of sexual assault?  What more, if anything, should be done? There have been positive changes following the arrest of Anthony Sowell.  Police are conducting more thorough investigations and this must continue.  Victims must be prepared and willing to testify in front of the Grand Jury.  A specific prosecutor must be assigned to a case from the date of the incident to ensure continuity.  These are good examples of changes or improvements to individual steps in process.  However, system-level changes, such as the integration of databases that I have discussed, can lead to improvements that facilitate all of these tasks.  My opponents have been critical of various law enforcement agencies in their handling of the case.  This is understandable, as the Sowell case was an emotionally charged tragedy for our community.  However, as Prosecutor, rather than point fingers, my mission will be to support law enforcement by working to build a criminal justice system that employs state-of-the-art tools, technologies, and strategies to do the job right.