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Bill Mason Talks to Patch about Regrets, the Future and Whether He Will Run for Office Again

A portrait of the Cuyahoga County prosecutor as he leaves the post he's held for 14 years

In Bill Mason's childhood home in Parma, "laid back" was not an option.

With 16 kids in the family, you had to fight for pretty much everything you wanted -- even dinner.

"We ate at 5 o'clock on the button, and if you weren't there, you were out of luck," Mason recalls. "My mom would try to save you some, but usually, it was gone."

There's no doubt in his mind that growing up in an every-kid-for-himself home helped shape the man he became. 

For one thing, he's prompt -- go figure.  

But that crowded Parma house, filled with brothers who won state wrestling titles, also instilled drive and determination. 

"There was more competition growing up in my home than out in the world," he laughs. 

No Regrets

Mason steps down this week as Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, a job that was supposed to be a stepping stone to higher office but ended up lasting 14 years.

"I always thought I'd be governor of Ohio, or a U.S. senator from Ohio, and I didn't get there," he says. 

Even when he was law director of Parma, he was matter-of-fact and open about his political aspirations.

But when the chance to run for Ohio attorney general surfaced in 2006 -- the election was won that year by Democrat Marc Dann, who resigned amid scandal less than two years later -- Mason backed out of the campaign before he began.

Every weekend, he'd travel around the state, building contacts -- and missing his kids' soccer and basketball games.

"I decided I needed a couple more years before I could campaign statewide," he says.

A couple years later, things had changed.

"When the door's open in front of you, you've got to run through it," Mason says. "It closes quickly."

In retrospect? Still the right call.

"I have no regrets," he says. "I'm pretty happy with my accomplishments."

The Corruption Probe

When the FBI launched an investigation into former Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, former Auditor Frank Russo and many underlings, Mason found himself criticized for failing to uncover the corruption himself.

He said then -- and maintains today -- that his office did not know about the back-door deals and bribes.

"We'd be at the same events, but we weren't friends," he says of Dimora and Russo. "We were like ships passing in the night."

Mason's friend and political ally, Dean DePiero, a former state representative and mayor of Parma, says Mason did not socialize with Dimora, Russo or their crowd. 

"He was the prosecutor -- they weren't going to do things openly and tell him about them," DePiero says.

Still, the probe opened a dark stretch for the prosecutor's office as the local media tried to link Mason to wrongdoing. He says that for months, the Plain Dealer would send three or four reporters to his office a day, each looking for information from a different case or issue, often years old, "trying to find dirt."

"It made it hard to function for a while," Mason says. "They distorted facts, made it look like I was a criminal."

He still wonders why the paper came after him so hard.

"My opinion is that I had garnered too much political power, and they felt they had to change that," he says.

Still, Mason leaves office proud of a lot of things -- his office's 92 percent conviction rate, creating a cold case unit, spearheading a group to look into wind turbines on Lake Erie, and especially the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a local effort he started to nab online predators that went statewide at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice.

"I'm very happy about where it's gone," he says. "We're catching the predators before they're getting to our kids."

And Now

Mason, 53, has taken a job as a litigator with the law firm of Bricker & Eckler. 

He and his wife, Carol, moved to Seven Hills a few years back and their kids are doing well -- Kelly, the oldest, just took the bar exam; Marty is in his second year of law school; Cassie, 19, is at Ohio State University, studying to be a psychologist, and Jordan, 16, is at Padua Franciscan High School and wants to be a dentist.

Will he miss the prosecutor's office? Sure.

"I think I'll miss being in the mix," he says. "Every day, major events happened -- there was a major murder case, or we'd work on the medical mart, or whatever. It was difficult and high-stress, but I lived on that."

He doesn't rule out another run for public office someday, but don't look for him to be the next mayor of Seven Hills -- the job would have to be a pretty big one.

"The reality is, I'm probably done with elected office," he says. 

And that's okay.

"I've done it for 20 years, and I've enjoyed every inch of it," he says. "Now I'll give 110 percent to this and see where it takes me."

Mark September 28, 2012 at 11:18 AM
Sadly, in office 14 years and not having a clue of the corruption around your "party" speaks volumes of why you are not viewed in a positive light upon your exit.
Winston Smith September 28, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Awwwww, what a swell guy-NOT!! Totally ALOOF concerning massive corruption in the Cuyahoga Democratic Party, but "let's go after law-abiding gunowners" by cancelling a signed lease for bi-monthly gunshows at the Berea Fairgrounds! The promoter sued Bill Mason, and WON! Bill Mason cost the county $70,000. Nice job Bill...
Elliot Ness September 28, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Bill, You may not have been a part of the Russo/Dimora crew but, I'm convinced you knew about it. For you to say you heard nothing, to have us believe that no one in your office ever heard anything is and it didn't get back to you is a joke. People involved with the politics of public office have their finger on the pulse, especially since you are a democrat like Jimmie and Frankie. You didn't want to know, and didn't want to go after fellow democrats. You were to smart to do anything underhanded like these buffoons, but you surely knew about it. I'm sure rumors of the contract steering and LAVISH spending and lifestyles of these two got back to you, and you knew their salaries could not support it. You turned a blind eye and embarassed this city. For me, thats your legacy.
Frank Jablonski September 28, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Some people will never get it. Bill is a family man, husband and good human being. It is sad that are so many haters in this world. Look in the mirror, get a life and stop believing everything that is written in the paper. Bill did much good for all of us. Thanks Bill.
Steve September 28, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Yea, from a family of 16.... He knew but didn't want to 'rock the boat' just like all the other Dem's here that look the other way, unless it suits their needs, not OUR'S... Not a hater, just telling it like it is and was long before they got caught. No thanks, Bill.

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