Thursday, October 10, 2013

Corruption, chicanery charges leveled in Richmond Heights mayoral race

State Investigation Sought;
Allegations likely to be center stage at candidates forum set for next week

In 2009 Miesha Headen burst onto the local political scene in Richmond Heights by conducting a vigorous door-to-door campaign across the politically dormant suburb that was used to returning incumbents to office decade after decade. She topped the field to become a Councilwoman at Large in her first try at political office. And she did so in a town so indifferent to mounting challenges to its financial stability and troubled school district that the mayor has faced no opposition in over a decade. In 2007 not one of the four council people on the ballot had an opponent. The city has no primary.

One could have been excused for thinking before yesterday that even a four-way for mayor was going to be the kind of ho-hum political fare that has seemed the city’s preference. The incumbent, Daniel Ursu — in office since 1989 — announced in February that he would be seeking a seventh term, shortly after he learned that Councilwoman Eloise Henry was telling friends that she was in the race “no matter who else is running”.

The race gained some intrigue in May when 40-year resident David Ali announced that he was getting in the race. The announcement raised the eyebrows of some city hall watchers in particular because Ali was known to be in negotiations with city officials to acquire some high profile vacant property.

Even Headen’s last-minute decision to enter the race — a possibility we had suggested early in the year — didn’t seem to enliven the race that much. For a while it seemed that each candidate would court his or her constituency and that would pretty much be it.

All of that changed yesterday with Headen’s release of a statement leveling serious charges against Ursu and Ali, accusing the mayor of trying to engineer a no-bid transfer of property at the corner of Chardon and Richmond Roads that would enrich Ali at the expense of city taxpayers.

Headen’s statement accuses Ursu of “a political kickback scheme whereby Ursu gives the Chardon Road property and the cost of its remediation to Dawud Ali in exchange for Ali entering the Richmond Heights mayoral race and diluting the black vote.”

Ursu is white; Headen, Ali, and Henry are African Americans.

In her statement, Headen asks why “Ali, a person who has no history of civic or government involvement in Richmond Heights, [is] suddenly interested in running for Mayor and spending thousands of his own dollars?” She answers her own question, saying that it is “because he and the Mayor have been working on this back room deal for more than a year.”

Headen is calling for a Special Investigation from the Ohio State Auditor, the Ohio Elections Commission and the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Ursu denied Headen’s charges and accused her of smear tactics, according to a Sun News report.

All four mayoral candidates are expected to appear at next week’s candidate forum, sponsored by the Cuyahoga League of Women Voters. The forum is scheduled for next Wednesday, October 16, at 7PM in the Richmond Heights Middle School Gym 447 Richmond Road, Richmond Hts.

Candidates for city council and the Richmond Heights school board will also participate in the forum.


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