After Nationwide Search, Mayor Hires New Finance Chief

CLEVELAND (AP) - Mayor Jane Campbell (pictured, right) named a government finance specialist as the city's new finance chief in an attempt to end years of bookkeeping problems.

Robert Baker, a retired law partner and Ohio's acting finance director in 1973, will start the $120,000-a-year job Monday.

"When it comes to finances, Robert Baker is a truly brilliant man," Campbell said.

Campbell began a national search for a finance chief after taking office in January. She wanted a topflight candidate to take over a department that has been repeatedly admonished by auditors for failing to follow basic accounting practices.

Baker, 59, a Cleveland Heights native, has been administering the Albania Encouragement Project, a church-affiliated humanitarian relief effort, since his 1999 retirement from a Chicago law firm.

In January, State Auditor Jim Petro criticized the city's last two finance directors, Kelly Clark and Ron Brooks, appointees of former Mayor Michael White.

The auditor said Clark lacked the "depth of skills" needed to oversee a billion-dollar budget and should not have been named finance chief. He said Brooks was not qualified for the job.

Campbell on Wednesday also gave a 10-day suspension to the city's commissioner of accounts, who is accused of misrepresenting her qualifications.

Shareen Jackson, who makes $80,000 a year, was accused of misrepresenting the credit-hours she earned at Kent State University on a civil-service application.

She indicated on the application that she had earned 96 hours toward a degree in fashion merchandising. University records show she earned 55 credit-hours.

The civil service office says the minimum qualifications for commissioner of accounts include a bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, business administration, economics or a closely related field.

Jackson has said that her 10 years of work experience in finance qualifies her for the job.

She purchased a degree for $99.75 from an unaccredited college.

The degree was not a factor in her suspension.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)