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Give credit to the ever-unfolding Cuyahoga County corruption investigation for the jumble of government reform proposals that county voters sorted through on their ballots.

Backers of both Issue 5 and Issue 6 said the probe, which became public with July 2008 raids on the homes and offices of county officials and private contractors, gave new life to a long-sputtering reform movement.

“The corruption, to me, made people pay more attention to county government,” said Parma Heights Mayor Martin Zanotti, who helped draft Issue 6. “It highlighted the problems with the current structure.”

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Harriet Applegate, an AFL-CIO leader who helped draw up the competing Issue 5, acknowledged the federal probe pumped energy into the notion of changing Cuyahoga’s government structure like never before.

“It got legs because of the corruption,” she said.

So far, nearly 20 people — including county employees, Cleveland building inspectors and business owners — have pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges. Search warrants and plea agreements show that federal agents suspect a widespread pay-to-play system in which top county officials dispensed jobs or contracts in exchange for bribes.

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Article courtesy of  The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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