Ronayne’s campaign accuses Weingart of paying more than $10,000 in return for $10,000 days before Basheer Jones was endorsed in the county executive race

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CLEVLEAND, Ohio — Campaign finance records show that Cuyahoga County executive candidate Lee Weingart wrote a check to a company linked to Basheer Jones and named in an FBI subpoena, just before the Cleveland’s former councilman doesn’t approve of it.

On June 30, Weingart paid $10,000 for “services” from Imani Wellness, a health and wellness company that Jones has supported and raised funds for, according to the latest campaign finance reports. not audited.

Jones, a Democrat, broke ranks with his party seven days later to endorse Weingart, a Republican, for county executive, suggesting Weingart was more likely than his opponent, Chris Ronayne, to help black communities and disadvantaged to prosper.

Ronayne’s campaign manager David Razum flagged the expense on Friday, saying the timing of the two events suggests a quid pro quo.

“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then I think we have to consider it a duck,” Razum told cleveland.com.

Weingart flatly rejected the idea, saying he was asked to help sponsor an event Jones was helping organize at the convention center “and we did.” It featured 40-50 small, largely minority-owned businesses from across the region. So Weingart said he saw it as an opportunity to present his ideas for investing in the urban core and supporting small businesses.

“He asked us to be part of it and I said, ‘Is this going to be good for my campaign? Will there be people? And he said ‘yes,’ and there was a good crowd, a nice crowd there,” Weingart said. “It was a chance to come in and talk to people.”

At the time, Weingart said he didn’t know Jones would support him, even though they had been discussing the possibility for a month. He said they shared a similar approach to government and “where would we put money, you know, government funds to help people who really need it.”

Weingart initially said he was “honoured and delighted” to have Jones’ support, but the benefit he hoped it would bring to his campaign was short-lived. A week later, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer learned that the FBI was looking into Jones’ dealings with a number of people and organizations during part of his time on city council.

“While we hoped the endorsement would be more helpful to us, it obviously became less helpful,” Weingart said. But Jones connected him with a base of younger voters who continue to help him in his campaign, he added: “So I think it was worth it in that regard, for us. “

Cleveland.com attempted to reach Jones for comment.

The May 5 subpoena, served on Cleveland City Hall, showed federal investigators were primarily focused on obtaining documents related to contracts, block grant applications and payments the city made to the Famicos Foundation and at Lexington Bell from Jan. 1, 2018, to Jan. 3, 2022. But he also requested payments or canceled checks from 24 other individuals and organizations connected to Jones.

Among them were Imani Wellness and its registered agent, Mecca East. Records from the Ohio Secretary of State show East registered the business as a for-profit corporation in May 2019.

A LaunchGood Fundraiser campaign Jones ran for the wellness center in 2021, however, listed it as a registered nonprofit. He was seeking donations to help establish the Imani Wellness Center, which he said would “provide a relaxing and rejuvenating environment offering free and low-cost wellness services” and “help encourage self- transformative healing: mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, thus ultimately restoring the whole person.

Jones was an activist before being elected to City Council in 2017, representing Ward 7, which includes Hough, St. Clair-Superior, Midtown and Asia Town. During his four years on the board, he became known for his outspokenness and faced two recall attempts, both of which failed.

He served one term before giving up his seat to run for mayor in 2021, finishing fifth out of seven primary candidates.

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Elaine R. Knight