Former Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman Receives Probation In Corruption Case

Joe Cimperman with his wife, Nora Romanoff, after leaving court May 15, 2018. [Matt Richmond / ideastream]

Former Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman will serve 12 months of probation, pay a $10,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service as punishment for 26 counts of unlawful interest in a public contract.

Each of the counts is a misdemeanor carrying up to 180 days in county jail. The sentence was part of a plea deal with the state auditor's office, which served as special prosecutor in the case. 

In announcing his sentence, Judge Michael Russo pointed out that Cimperman was unlikely to offend again and compared his offenses to the Cuyahoga County corruption scandal of 10 years ago.

“One of the things I do consider and find significant – there is a violation of the public trust. But that being said, this is not the type of public corruption that has recently been experienced in this county. It is not even the same breadth or scope,’’ said Russo.

Cimperman pled guilty to voting for 26 city contracts, totaling more than $4 million, with ParkWorks, now LAND Studio, despite sitting on the company’s board and, after leaving the board, marrying one of the firm’s employees.

His lawyer, Roger Synenberg, argued for leniency before the sentence was announced. He described Cimperman as a dedicated public servant, and the 26 votes as oversights.

“Not to minimize what is happening, but to give some perspective, we figured in the 18 years Joe was a councilman, he cast a vote over 100,000 times for different pieces of legislation,’’ said Synenberg. “Neither he nor Nora profited personally from any of these votes.”

Stephanie Anderson, public integrity attorney at the Ohio auditor's office, pushed back against that argument when her turn came.

“Joe Cimperman is not alleged to have received any form of tangible benefit in term of kickbacks or extra money of any sort,’’ said Anderson. “But [his wife] Nora Romanoff arguably did receive a benefit from all of these public contracts.’’

According to Anderson, from 2006 to 2016, Romanoff's salary at LAND Studio went from about $53,000 a year to $125,000 by 2016.

Cimperman left council in 2016 and now runs Global Cleveland.

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