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Dream Home Destroyed: Developer Guts Hillside, Causes Slide

CHAGRIN FALLS — A lawsuit has been filed against the developer of the River Walk Townhomes currently being constructed on Orange Street.

The West Cottage Street home of Terry and David Mitchell is sliding down an adjacent hill because of the construction below their property, according to lawyer Tom Merriman, who is representing the Mitchells.

Robert Vitt’s Silver Leaf development company has started construction on a condominium development on West Orange Street. The Mitchells’ home sits on a crest on top of a hill that slopes down to that development.

“They (the developers) didn’t test to see if they gutted the hillside, what would happen to the properties at the top of the hill,” Merriman said.

The family has been forced to move from their home because it is sliding down the hill and has been deemed unsafe to live in, according to Merriman. They are staying with family and friends.

“The cement foundation in their first floor is completely cracked in half and the back section of the floor has dropped off and is sliding down the hill,” he said, adding that a bedroom has pulled away from the house and the house itself has pulled away from the chimney.

See the FOX 8 I-TEAM REPORT.

Read the full story on Cleveland.com

Read more on the story from the Chagrin Valley Times

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JAIL’S WARDEN DELETES FOURTEEN HOURS OF VIDEO EVIDENCE

MANSFIELD — A federal lawsuit centers on what an erased 14-hour stretch of jail videotape would have shown. The suit stems from the death of a 37-year-old man in a Richland County Jail cell.

Attorney Tom Merriman says footage would have indicated Michael P. Reid — a longtime alcoholic with a history of suffering seizures during withdrawal — was in medical trouble.

“The defendants deleted nearly 14 hours of videotape from Michael’s overnight incarceration, which would show the signs and symptoms of withdrawal he was experiencing — and thus his urgent medical need,” argued Tom Merriman, attorney for Reid’s estate, in a brief to U.S. District Court Judge Dan Aaron Polster.

Read the entire story from the Mansfield News Journal…

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Team LGM: A Commitment to Community Safety

When people break the rules intended to keep you safe, we fight to make it right. It may be an aggressive driver, a crooked business selling a defective product, or a medical professional too busy to care about the safety of his patients. Their conduct may have only injured one person, but their negligence places the entire community at risk.

The only way to stop dangerous behavior is to ask a jury to enforce the rules and hold rule breakers accountable. The great thing about our system of justice is that it relies upon ordinary citizens to perform an extraordianry duty.

Defense attorneys often attempt to confuse juries with false complexity and distractions.  At Landskroner Grieco Madden, we have the experience to empower juries to understand the fundamental safety rules at stake in every case. We believe this approach enables us to offer our clients a different brand of lawyering with the power to bring justice in the name of the community.  A justice intended to protect your family’s safety, security, and survival in an often dangerous world.

That’s the reason I returned to the practice of law and that’s why I chose Team LGM:

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0bBGSuoTb0

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Merriman Media Group: A Look Back at a Cast of Characters

I never cease to be amazed how people respond to intentionally uncomfortable questions.  During fourteen years of investigative reporting, I couldn’t help but have a soft spot for the bad guys.  True characters who fought, fled, or just dug themselves into deeper and deeper holes.   Look for some of the more colorful scoundrels sprinkled throughout nine minutes of broadcast highlights from the Fox 8 years.  And don’t miss the increasingly ironic sound bite from Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.   CLICK HERE TO WATCH YOUTUBE VIDEO:

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PBS Special Profiles Cleveland Investigative Reporter

“Telling the Truth: The Best of Broadcast Journalism”

After Cleveland investigative reporter Tom Merriman won the 2006 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for his 25 part investigation into waste, fraud, and corruption in the Cleveland Municipal School District transportation department, his work was profiled in a PBS special hosted by Michel Martin.  Watch a brief video clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIl6vlofwjE


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Merriman Media Group: The Power of Fundamental Truth

WHAT WOULD OPRAH DO?

As a lawyer, I represent clients who are required to undergo grueling depositions.   Many arrive at preparation sessions believing the lawyers will “tell me what to say.”  Overcome with anxiety and uncertainty about the process, they fear opposing counsel will trick, bully, or bludgeon them into responses which will destroy their case.

In reality, the best thing a lawyer can do for their client is to help them get in touch with the fundamental truths underlying their case.  If a person is grounded in what they believe about the facts, the nature of the injustice, and the impact upon their lives, nothing will offer greater protection under hostile questioning.   Wherever the cross-examination may lead, the witness is confident of where they need to go.

The power of fundamental truth extends well beyond the walls of a courtroom.  In a media interview, especially those conducted in the context of crisis or conflict, people who allow their fundamental truths to drive the content and tone of their message, inevitably prevail.

It makes absolute sense to enter an interview with the preparation and discipline needed to stay on message under the most aggressive questioning.  Those key messages, however, need to be drawn from the truths and commitments which are fundamental to the organization, the brand, and to you as a person.   When a media strategy is rooted in genuine core values, the communicator is empowered to be passionate, energetic and credible.

So what do you do when the “truth” is inconsistent with who you are as a person or who you want to be as an organization?

Your product, tainted with cyanide, has been linked to the deaths of seven consumers.

An internal audit has uncovered how one of your high ranking executives spent corporate funds on lavish parties for his family and friends.

A non-profit school in South Africa which you founded to help young girls climb out of poverty has been rocked by a sex scandal.

Organizational leaders who successfully navigate these troubled waters know who they are, where they stand, and what they believe.   They embrace the truth no matter how inconvenient it may be.   And most importantly, they make a conscious choice about what role they will play in the unfolding story.

Every great investigative story may indeed need a villain, but every human story, regardless of whether it is hard, soft, or investigative, evolves in search of a vindicator.  The public can forgive human weakness, bad judgment, and inattention to scandal, especially when the person in question has seized the moment to accept responsibility for the situation and taken action to fix the problem.

There is perhaps no better model of this approach than Oprah Winfrey’s response to reports that a matron at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa had sexually molested a student.   While the world media and the people of South Africa could have cast Ms. Winfrey as the out of touch, grandstanding billionaire villain, too busy to protect the innocent children she claimed to help, that storyline never developed.    Winfrey embraced the ugly truth, flew immediately to South Africa, launched an independent investigation, and communicated her response to the scandal in a completely transparent manner.   She chose to be the vindicator of the children who were harmed.   Her strategy was genuine, rooted in the truth of who she is and what she is about as a person.  Watch Oprah’s video statement:

Opray Responds to Scandal

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Merriman Media Group: The Folly of Slick PR

VOLUNTEERING TO BE A VILLAIN

People do it all the time…

For fourteen years, I watched and listened as television interview subjects responded to intentionally uncomfortable questions by spinning, denying, or distorting the truth.   They typically engaged in this media “strategy” with a press secretary or highly-paid consultant sitting just a few feet away.    It never worked.   More often than not, this approach simply reinforced the unfortunate facts they were hoping to avoid and cast the interviewee as a villain in the eyes of the viewers at home.

Every great investigative story needs a villain and far too often people inexplicably volunteer for the role.  “Volunteer villains” tend to be otherwise successful executives, professionals, and government officials blinded by the toxic cocktail of competitive instinct, near pathological insecurity, and abject fear.   Confronted by evidence of organizational dysfunction, the negative consequences of corporate decisions, or the unethical conduct of a subordinate, the volunteer villain chooses to fight, flee, or, more often than not, act like they just don’t care.

The volunteer villain is typically enabled by a PR consultant selling the snake oil of “key messages” as the balm which will magically enable an organization’s open sores to simply vanish under the klieg lights.  The consultant intones, “Dress conservatively, avoid checks and prints,  accept pancake makeup if it’s offered, and no matter what you do…keep repeating the key messages our firm has developed for your interview.” The client then marches off to slaughter, confident and convinced they have been handed the secret code which will somehow shield them from a media predator.

A good journalist can spot a coached-up executive less than ten seconds into the tape  (remember reporters go to seminars too).  And when they do, to borrow a phrase from Garth Algar, “Game on.”   Robotically-repeated canned answers quickly become fodder for a skilled interviewer to make the person look like a complete idiot.   The point is not to humiliate, although that often happens.   The goal is to penetrate the shield, expose the real person, and elicit genuine unscripted answers.   We used to call it “being in the moment.”

The problem with slick media training is that it is often disingenuous to the client it purports to serve.   People who lead great organizations tend to be driven by a passion for their mission and a devotion to fundamental truths and commitments which define who they are and where they stand in the world.   Communicating effectively in mass media, particularly in times of crisis, must always begin at the core of the communicator …with an exploration of their fundamental truths.

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Team LGM: WEWS Five On Your Side Investigates Cooney Hit & Skip

WEWS Newschannel 5 investigative reporter Ron Regan recently aired a two part series about the botched police investigation into the the hit & run crash which severely injured Dr. Danielle Cooney.   Cleveland attorney Tom Merriman and Team LGM represent both Dr. Cooney and co-worker Dr. Kristina Frangella.     The two Veterans Admininstration Medical Center pharmacy doctors were in one of three cars hit by an SUV at the corner of E.79th and Chester on April 14, 2009.   Dr. Danielle Cooney, 28 years old and pregnant at the time of the crash, sustained a severe brain injury which required a craniectomy.   She has spent the past  seven months undergoing extensive physical rehabilitation.

A power outage in the area knocked out the traffic signal at E. 79th and Chester in the middle of rush hour.   Witnesses say Dr. Cooney stopped and took her turn at the intersection while heading westbound on Chester Avenue, properly treating the non-functioning traffic signal as a four way stop.   The SUV, speeding southbound on E. 79 th,  veered around cars stopped at the intersection and plowed into three vehicles traveling on Chester Avenue.  The driver then fled on foot.

It remains a mystery exactly why a Cleveland Police cruiser arrived on the scene within seconds.   The Newschannel 5 investigation uncovered a witness ( the owner of the gasoline station on the corner)  who claims he saw the CPD cruiser engaged in a high speed chase, pursuing the SUV prior to the crash.  Reporter Ron Regan’s investigation has triggered an internal CPD investigation.

Dr. Danielle Cooney recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy.   While she faces many physical challenges due to her injuries, she is fighting to return to normal life.   Her husband, Dr. Jeffrey Cooney, has raised serious questions about how the original accident investigation was handled by CPD.   The perpetrator has never been identified.   Dr. Kristina Frangella, who also sustained serious injuries in the crash, has returned to her postion at the Stokes VA Medical Center.

CLICK THIS LINK TO WATCH THE WEWS FIVE ON YOUR SIDE INVESTIGATION:

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Merriman Wins 37th Emmy Award

Former Fox 8 Investigative Reporter Tom Merriman picked up six Emmy awards at the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences ceremony at the Intercontinental Hotel.   “It’s a nice way to cap off a great career,”  Merriman said.   During his fourteen years in Cleveland television, Merriman won 37 regional Emmy awards, more than any other reporter in the Cleveland market.   “Because of my unorthodox path to journalism, I was really fortunate to work on in-depth projects with impact.  I’m grateful to people like photojournalist Dave Hollis and editor Matt Rafferty who helped bring these stories to life.”

Merriman became a journalist  after serving as Deputy Ohio Attorney General in the early 1990′s.   He recently returned to practicing law with Landskroner Grieco Madden, Team LGM.    The Cleveland law firm is now representing Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter in a high profile defamation lawsuit against the Sandusky Register.    ”When you become a journalist, you make a commitment to truth and you make a promise to the citizens you serve.   I’ve been honored to live that commitment in a community I care about.     This case has challenged me to stand up to members of the media who have breached that fundamental responsibility.”

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