Henry Gomez writes a good roundup of the challenges facing the Cuyahoga County transition.? However, in his coverage of the February 17 meeting, Gomez missed one very important point – transition advisory group co-chair Martin Zanotti lied to a reporter during the meeting.

Zanotti watched from the sidelines at a public meeting for the government transition process held at CSU February 17. After several audience members lobbed softball questions at the group of Democrats in control of the meeting, I stepped to the mic and addressed Zanotti directly. I asked him to go on record to confirm or deny that he accompanied J. Kevin Kelley on gambling junkets to the Detroit/Windsor area. Zanotti?s response? ?Come over here and ask me that.?

So I did.

But the audience never heard his response, which was, ?Zero.?

I guess that depends on your definition of ?junket?.

Reached by phone early this morning, Joe Tal, Parma Heights service director and brother-in-law of Zanotti, said that he was on at least two trips to casinos with Zanotti and J. Kevin Kelley. The feds insist J. Kevin Kelley?s limos, trips and chips were paid for by people seeking favors from Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo and commissioner Jimmy Dimora.

You can hear Zanotti say “ZERO” in this video.? That Zanotti told this lie, deliberately in private, at a public meeting of a public engagement committee which had previously been meeting in private, which Zanotti was forced to open to the public, really says all I need to know about this transition process.? And now we hear that other members of the transition process are covering up for Zanotti.

Through a Freedom of Information request, the Independent has obtained an internal email from former Shaker Heights mayor?and current member of the transition team?s Economic Development group?Judy Rawson, in which she describes a conversation she had with Zanotti in June, 2009

?Marty says he drove himself to Detroit 1-2 times with a group of 10 guys,? she wrote. ?No limos. He says Kevin K may have been in the group. Denies anything to do with chips.?

Strangely, when Rawson called the Independent yesterday, she tried to put the cat back in the bag. ?Zanotti denies he ever went on these trips,? she said. When she discovered we had the email, she quickly ended the call.

I’m going to guess we’ll hear more about all this.? A lot more.? Whether this transition advisory group wants to tell us or not.

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