EAST CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Last week East Cleveland residents voted against Mayor Eric Brewer. That's not stopping Brewer from his duties. The mayor announced he's cutting 19 police department personnel.
STATEMENT OF MAYOR ERIC J. BREWER
It is with the deepest regret that I am forced to lay-off 19 police department personnel in order to cover a more than $981,000 shortfall in tax revenue that has affected the City of East Cleveland's ability to deliver service to its residents. Failure to do so on my part would constitute an act of Dereliction of Duty, which prohibits any elected official from "knowingly" engaging in conduct that creates a deficit. The offense is criminal. I have no intention of breaking the law.
East Cleveland City Council was advised of the $981,000 shortfall by the Director of Finance in July. Despite the city's known budget challenges, the current Council President led his colleagues to agree to pay raises and other financial considerations that were requested by the FOP, against the advice of the Mayor, because the city could not afford them. I now realize that he recklessly sacrificed the city's finances in order to obtain the union's endorsement for mayor. It is the first time any council has voted against raises that were not supported by the Mayor and the officials seated at the negotiating table. It shows the Council President's willingness to sacrifice the welfare of the residents of East Cleveland for his own personal political ambitions.
Regrettably, leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), notably Otto Holm, informed administration officials that the union was not responsible for my decision to improve safety when I hired additional police personnel. He suggested during discussions that I lay-off recently-hired FOP members in order to reduce the department's budget.
While every other city employee is giving up 16 hours per month, just like other city, county and state employees across Ohio, the FOP and its representatives did not agree to such a plan. Their representatives selfishly thought we should lay-off or furlough fire department employees, service employees and employees in every other department and leave them alone. Based on contract language approved by a majority of the FOP's members, employees represented by that union would have to vote to agree to furlough days. That vote has not occurred even though it was presented to the FOP as an option on July 27.
Currently there are 84 police employees. When I took office on January 1, 2006 there were only 39. Even with the reduction of 19, the department will still have 65 police employees, which are 27 more than I inherited. East Cleveland's ordinances authorized 73 police employees when the city's population was over 43,000 in 1960. With less than an estimated 22,000 residents the 65 remaining police employees keeps the city safe. Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid will continue to assist the city with deputies until sometime in 2010. It will be up to the next Mayor to determine if more cuts will be needed next year to keep the city from returning to fiscal emergency if tax collections continue to fall.
This isn't the first time East Cleveland police employees have been laid-off. In 2004, after a former mayor negotiated a very bad collective bargaining agreement with the fire department's union, a total of 18 correction officers, dispatchers and administrative employees were laid-off. Police officers were shifted from the streets to handle the duties of those who were laid-off at wages that were higher than the laid-off employees. I believed that lay-off plan was financially reckless and endangered the safety of East Cleveland residents. It is the same plan that was suggested to me by senior members of the FOP. It is not a plan I am following.
Under my plan, lay-offs are being spread across the board and through all ranks. If there are fewer employees to supervise, the city doesn't need as many supervisors. Under current contract language approved by the majority of police union employees, there are no "bumping rights."
I am laying-off one lieutenant, two sergeants, four community policing officers, three dispatchers, five part-time patrol officers, and four basic patrol officers. As there are only four correction officers, none will be laid-off. The Chief of Police chose the two sergeants he wanted me to lay-off based upon his assessment that their skills were less needed than others. The community policing officers were formerly paid with federal block grant funds under a program my administration initiated with HUD to help improve safety in a Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area. When I suspended Community Housing Solutions from doing business with the city after learning that the organization had never been audited by any mayor or city manager since 1974, and learning that it could not justify spending more than $500,000 in federal funds, we were no longer able to use block grant funds to support the community policing program. I then moved the community policing officers to the general fund to keep them working. The general fund can no longer absorb their salaries.
While my decision may generate criticism from the FOP representatives, affected employees and uninformed Council leadership that has held only six monthly Health & Safety Committee meetings in four years, the decision I am making is best for the city and lawfully correct. It is very sad that the Council President, who has not yet won a general election to become mayor-elect, has chosen to add fuel to an already enraging fire. His lack of management experience is showing and explains why in seven years he was never given the responsibility by the county commissioners, even with a master's degree in public administration, to manage any department. He was even terminated from a management training job for Miami-Dade / City-County government. He'll now have four years of on the job training to learn management at the expense of the safety of all East Cleveland residents, employees and visitors who have enjoyed 40 to 75 percent less crime during my administration. My prayers will be with them.
According to contract language, I am required to give FOP members 30 days advance notice before a lay-off. FOP members can still vote to agree to furlough 16 hours a month if they are interested in saving the jobs of their co-workers, but the vote will have to occur immediately and they must vote for the furlough to begin on Monday, October 12.
The FOP can vote to save police jobs by agreeing to "share the pain" like every other union and non-union city employee or they can choose to be selfish and sacrifice the jobs of those with less seniority while members at the top of the seniority list fill their pockets with the overtime. The choice is theirs as I have already exercised management rights to make mine.
While police employees and the Council President are fostering the false impression that my actions are retaliatory, I will reiterate that the Council was informed about the city's tax collection shortfall in July. I held a televised meeting with the employee unions on July 27 and with all employees on July 30. I met with residents to discuss it during a series of six town hall meetings. Unfortunately, the media is reacting today to something the residents of East Cleveland and employees have known for months.
Like many other decisions I have made on behalf of the residents of East Cleveland, this one is tough. I'll take the heat for this decision just like I have for others I've made in the past. I, not the media nor the Council President, am the Mayor of East Cleveland until December 31, 2009 at 11:59 p.m.