CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Just nine hours after we aired our investigation into questionable backgrounds of some Cleveland school police officers, Cleveland CEO Eric Gordon fired off an email letter to nearly 7,000 school employees.
While Gordon, through a school spokesperson, has refused to comment either on or off air regarding our investigation, he had no trouble devoting 387 words to defending the system's hiring practices and discrediting our report.
In the email, Gordon wrote:
Actually, the officers worked for other police departments. We researched the backgrounds of CMSD officers at those departments, raising serious questions about their ability and fitness to serve, and the school system's ability to screen qualified candidates. Even when the information was staring them in the face.
School security expert Ken Trump says anyone with access to a computer would have known about Masai Brown. Brown was fired from Woodmere Police Department for viewing porn on the mayor's computer and filing false village records. He was also indicted for kidnapping and felonious assault with a firearm, after a woman told police Brown had forced her into his car and threatened to kill her, before firing his gun. The indictment was dismissed when the woman didn't show up for court.
Woodmere fired Brown for viewing porn on the Mayor's computer and falsifying village records, but when asked on his Cleveland Metropolitan School District employment application if he'd ever been fired, Brown said "no." CMSD hired Brown as a police officer.
Kendall Fortson told Cleveland Schools he was never fired from a previous employer. Even though records show he was clearly fired for being "unreliable" from a company doing security for East Cleveland Schools. CMSD hired him anyway, and continues to employ him even though he did prison time for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, one of six DUI's for Fortson.
Cleveland schools also hired Tony Jones as a police officer, despite the fact he was allowed to resign from Highland Hills Police Department rather than face departmental charges of sexual battery.
But in Gordon's letter to CMSD employees, CEO Gordon defends the school's hiring practices, saying CMSD is "committed to thorough vetting of candidates for employment." Gordon also says some of the offenses we mentioned wouldn't "prohibit the schools from hiring the officers, under Ohio Department of Education guidelines."
But even CMSD concedes it can do a better job of vetting applicants. As we already reported, the schools have hired former Cleveland police commander Dennis Hill – among other things – to review the police hiring procedures.
Gordon's letter goes on to say of "particular concern are allegations" in our reports "that students are in danger as a result of a few safety and security officers." The CEO adds, "CMSD will continue to demonstrate thoughtful attention to allegations regarding the security team, and take appropriate steps to protect students and the officers accused."
On a day when Gordon claimed "a part of the CMSD community" was "maligned" by the Cleveland 19 investigative team, he encouraged everyone to "show their support" for the CMSD security team.
We wanted to give CEO Eric Gordon yet another chance to share his views, with you the viewer. Again, we were told he isn't talking to Cleveland 19.