CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - After weeks of dodging our cameras and our questions, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has finally broken his silence to 19 News regarding ethics concerns over a homicide investigation involving his grandson.
Ethics experts say it is a conflict of interest for the Cleveland Division of Police to handle a homicide case in which the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office has named 22-year-old Frank Q. Jackson a “prime suspect."
City and county leaders, concerned about a conflict of interest, have been calling on police to hand the investigation over to an outside law enforcement agency.
Despite repeated requests for an interview, Mayor Jackson has refused to speak with us on camera, instead releasing a taped statement to the media on Sept. 12.
19 News investigator Sara Goldenberg caught up with Mayor Jackson at City Hall on Friday as he headed in to City Council Chambers for the 144th Cleveland Police Academy Graduation.
Sara Goldenberg: “Mayor, can we speak to you regarding your grandson’s case?”
Mayor Frank Jackson: “No.”
Goldenberg: “Why do you oppose having an outside agency investigate?”
Mayor: “I don’t oppose anything. I’ll let the process take care of itself.”
Goldenberg: "Have you read the Ohio Code of Ethics when it pertains to conflicts of interest?
Mayor: “Well, I think there’s an Ethics Commission and they would probably, if there was a conflict, they would probably rule on that.”
Goldenberg: “It specifically talks about an investigation and a family member. Whether perceived or real, why would you want there to be any thought of conflict of interest? What about transparency for the people?”
Mayor: “Well, I haven’t interfered so far and I’m not going to interfere in this process.”
Goldenberg: “Did you at any time tell any CPD officers or staff to not use their body cameras?”
Mayor: “I think I’ve told you no on that before."
Goldenberg: “To not turn them off or turn them on?”
Mayor: “I have not told anyone to do anything.”
Goldenberg: “What would you tell the public in the interest of transparency when it comes to releasing that video? You did not give journalists the opportunity to ask questions.”
Mayor: “Well, I don’t need to talk to the public through you, but I will talk to the public.”
Frank Q. Jackson has not been charged in connection with the Aug. 28 murder of Antonio Parra outside of a barber shop on Clark Avenue at West 51st Street, but witnesses reported seeing a car belonging to Jackson fleeing the scene.
Following the murder, detectives showed up at the mayor’s East 38th Street home, picked up a juvenile for questioning and towed Frank Q. Jackson’s truck. Two traffic tickets from August show Jackson has the mayor’s address listed as his residence on his drivers license.
Sources say the mayor told police officers investigating the Clark Avenue homicide not to use their body cameras while at his house.
According to CPD policy, police officers are supposed to hit record on their wearable body cameras before taking any police action, including talking to suspects, victims and witnesses.
In a taped statement, Mayor Jackson previously stated he “never told anyone to turn off their camera,” but did not say if he had ordered officers not to turn them on.
On Friday, 19 News asked the mayor to clarify his response regarding the body cameras.
He stated, “I have not told anyone to do anything.”
According to the Ohio Ethics Law, when someone in public service is confronted with a conflict of interest, including matters involving close family members, he or she must completely abstain from making decisions about or influencing how the matter is resolved.
“The mayor has the ability to hire and fire the police chief, which tells me that certainly would lead someone to look at this, no matter what happens, and say that relationship could certainly have an effect on the investigation,” said Richard Koblentz, an attorney specializing in ethics law.
Koblentz agrees with some Cleveland City Council members and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor who have said there is a conflict of interest in the homicide case involving the mayor’s grandson.
However, Police Chief Calvin Williams has not turned the investigation over to another agency.
“If this were brought to the attention of the ethics commission, they would review it, I would presume, and undertake some sort of investigation -- to the degree of which I cannot tell you, because that is in the preview of that agency,” Koblentz said. “Then they would make a finding and a recommendation as to what they want to do.”