Moreland Hills Police Chief Thomas Flauto accused of illegal use of a state database
on February 22, 2013 at 2:13 PM, updated February 22, 2013 at 4:05 PM
View full sizeThe attorney for Moreland Hills Police Chief Thomas Flauto said he expects Madison County prosecutors to claim former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora wanted Flauto’s help tracking the owner of a license plateChuck Crow, The Plain Dealer
MORELAND HILLS, Ohio — Moreland Hills Police Chief Thomas Flauto faces a criminal charge that his lawyer says involves allegations of improperly accessing a state database four years ago as a favor to then-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.
Attorney Dominic Vitantonio said Friday he expects prosecutors to claim that Flauto used a law enforcement database to identify the owner of a license plate on behalf of Dimora. But the lawyer said he does not believe Dimora made the request.
“If this thing didn’t have the Dimora name somewhere in it, it would be a non-issue completely,” he said, “because it’s a ridiculous charge.”
Flauto could not be reached Friday for comment. Vitantonio said he expects his client to plead not guilty at an arraignment scheduled for March 1.
A grand jury in the central Ohio county of Madison, home to the state license database, has indicted Flauto, Vitantonio said. But prosecutors have yet to make the indictment public because they have not served the charges on the vacationing police chief.
Prosecutors in Madison County declined to comment Friday when asked about Flauto.
Flauto and Dimora are friends dating to their days together in Bedford Heights. Flauto was a detective with the suburb’s police department at the time Dimora served as the city’s mayor.
A wiretapped conversation between Flauto and Dimora was played at Dimora’s corruption trial last year, though the police chief was not accused of wrongdoing. Dimora was convicted of racketeering and other corruption-related crimes and is serving a 28- year prison term.
Flauto, 68, has been the police chief in Moreland Hills for 11 years and earns more than $83,000.
Moreland Hills Mayor Susan Renda said Madison County has not notified the village of any indictment. If and when that happens, she said, she and Law Director Margaret Cannon will summon the chief for a disciplinary hearing.
The investigation of Flauto was initiated by the FBI, which subpoenaed records from Moreland Hills in November 2008 (see documents below), four months after agents raided the offices and homes of Dimora, County Auditor Frank Russo and others, revealing publicly for the first time a massive probe into public corruption in county government.
Renda said the FBI asked the village not conduct its own internal investigation of Flauto.
The village police department was subpoenaed again on Aug. 16 of this year by Madison County Prosecutor Stephen Pronai. The subpoena sought any reports between June 1 and July 15 of 2008 relating to an Ohio license plate that reads “GOLFER.”
The subpoena does not identify the owner of the plate. State records identifying the owners of license plates are not publicly accessible.
“Nobody likes to be under a cloud,” Renda said of the drawn-out investigation. “We’ll all be glad when this is cleared up one way or another.”