Cleveland 19 investigates violent felons working for city government

Cleveland 19 investigates violent felons working for city government
pic of jail cell (Source: KAIT-TV)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) —After two recent high-profile cases of city employees being charged with violent and even deadly crimes, Cleveland 19 started investigating The City of Cleveland’s hiring practices.

Why are so many violent offenders working for the city of Cleveland? (part 1)
Cleveland's 2nd Chance program under scrutiny following brutally violent crimes (part 2)

Last year, Lance Mason, the city’s former Minority Business Development Administrator, was arrested and charged with the murder of his ex-wife Aisha Fraser. Four years before that, he was convicted of attempted felonious assault, but the city still hired him in 2017. He was fired after the most recent arrest.

Last month former custodial worker, Cardell Boyd was arrested and charged with attempted murder, felonious assault, domestic violence, attempted aggravated arson and abduction.

He had been working for the city nearly 4 years and has a violent past, including convictions for drug trafficking, menacing by stalking, sexual battery, and burglary. Boyd was fired after last months arrest.

The city has more than 8,100 employees. Cleveland 19 searched the criminal records for about 2,200 of them and found more than 100 with felony convictions working for the city right now.

They were hired under the city’s “second chance” program. It allows convicted felons to get jobs with the city.

City Councilman Mike Polensek admits council doesn’t have much of a say when it comes to hiring. He also believes in second chances, but he questions the city’s methods.

“As long as common sense is in place, the city will be fine and our citizens will be protected,” he said.

Cleveland 19 asked if common sense was in place. Polensek responded: “I can’t tell you if it is or not, because there’s no way for me to know that.”

Our investigation found a handful of people currently working for The City of Cleveland with violent backgrounds. Cleveland 19 decided not to name those employees.

Here's what we found in Cuyahoga County court records:

Two men who work in the public works department that were convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

Another man was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and once had to register as a sex offender. He now works as a residential building inspector.

A snow removal vehicle operator who is labeled by the courts as a repeat violent offender.

Most residents Cleveland 19 spoke to believe in giving reformed criminals a second chance.

“I don’t know those people. I’m sure they’re not all bad people just because they have felonies,” one Cleveland resident said.

Another said, “people need second chances. It depends on the felony, how long ago.”

Cleveland 19 agrees. There’s nothing wrong with giving people another shot. That’s why we wanted to learn more about the city’s so-called “second chance program.” We found out, it’s not really a program at all. It’s more-so a policy outlined in a hiring document.

In the document, one section states Human Resources should consider things like the date of the offense, how long the person has lived while not incarcerated and most importantly, the nature and severity of the offense. It doesn’t however, describe specific felony convictions like murder or assault.

Cleveland 19 found multiple current city workers previously convicted of both murder and assault.

That part has some asking for change.

“There should be clearly a process. A clear and concise process of who we’re going to hire and not hire,” Polensek said.

The policy also states a prior felony conviction can’t interfere with “ability to perform one or more of the duties or responsibilities necessarily related to the employment sought.”

Cleveland 19’s investigation found two people previously convicted of felony theft working as a senior cashier and senior clerk.

“That seems worrisome to me that they would be able to potentially commit fraud against the city if they have a past of doing so,” said one Cleveland resident.

When Cleveland 19 asked the city for a list of convicted felons working for the city and what positions they hold, we were told they don't keep one.

Bottom line, most people believe in second chances, but Polensek said if that chance backfires, it’s the city who could be on the line.

“The city is self-insured. We don’t have an outside insurance company. We are self-insured, so any lawsuit that we lose, it comes right out of the general fund,” Polensek said. He added, “working for the city is not an entitlement. It’s a privilege.”

Cleveland 19 reached out to multiple city employees who have felony convictions to see if they wanted to share their stories of success, rehabilitation, turning their lives around, and getting that second chance.

The city’s communications director, Dan Williams denied all requests for interviews for this story.

When asked if the city plans to investigate or change the hiring policies for convicted felons, communications employees didn’t respond.

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