Lakewood Residents Give To Feed Need, Lakewood Government Gives To Feed Greed

Over the years numerous citizens of Lakewood have given generously to help the less fortunate among us. Our time, perhaps the most valuable thing we possess, has been contributed by many individual Lakewood citizens to help others.  How many of our citizens have helped to man the Lakewood Christian Service Center to feed the hungry? How many have helped Lakewood Fish to provide transportation to those in need? How many have helped deliver food for Meals on Wheels? How many have mowed a neighbor’s lawn when they were not able to, or taken in their mail when they are away? For most of our citizens, that’s just doing the right thing.

On the other hand, there is the giving, or should I more correctly say, the giving away by our city officials. Our city administration enjoys giving to those who are NOT in need. Take for example the latest giveaway of Lakewood’s assets currently underway. Lakewood’s mayor is anxious to give away for one dollar (yes, for  only $1!) our Lakewood Hospital property estimated by the administration to be worth five million dollars. (Yes, $5,000,000!) To top that off, the mayor wants to spend seven million dollars (yes, $7,000,000!) of our money to destroy our $5,000,000 property for the benefit of a greedy developer. 

The mayor thinks it is good for Lakewood to start out owning real estate worth $5,000,000 plus $7,000,000 cash, and wind up owning nothing! Or, perhaps you might want to give the mayor credit for acquiring the $1 and say our citizens start with $12,000,000 in assets and wind up with a whole $1! The mayor calls this giveaway an investment. Expecting people to believe that giving away $12,000,000 of our property for $1 is an investment is what most would call chutzpah!

A rationalization of the mayor for this giveaway to the greedy developer is that it will create jobs that will pay income tax. He likes to ignore the loss of $900,000 annual income tax that had been  paid by the employees at Lakewood Hospital before it was shut down due to the mayor’s rigged deal with the Cleveland Clinic. The mayor wants us to forget that the Clinic was under an obligation to run the hospital until 2026 at no cost to the city and return it to the city as a going concern. The mayor also likes to ignore that the developer is being sued by the City of Beachwood for unpaid income taxes.

In her article “The values behind government ethics laws” Hana Callaghan notes that “The concept that government officials have special ethical obligations to the public is actually quite old. In Ancient Greece Plato called for death for public officials who took bribes.” Callaghan also points out that “Without a duty of accountability, the public’s ability to monitor the behavior of public fiduciaries would be severely limited. From the duty of accountability flow the duty of transparency and the concepts of disclosure, open meetings, and accessibility of public records.” (Hana Callaghan is the director of the Government Ethics Program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.) 

Lakewood’s problem is that the mayor doesn’t want the city officials’ behavior monitored. The idea of disclosure and accessibility of public records is anathema to him. How many thousands of dollars has the administration wrongfully spent on lawyers to prevent Brian Essi (a concerned Lakewood resident and lawyer) from access to public records?  Lakewood’s mayor obviously doesn’t agree with the Director of the Government Ethics Program in the matter of “accessibility of public records.”

In Lakewood’s last amended charter is a provision that “The mayor, councilmembers, director of law and director of finance owe a fiduciary duty to the city.” Spending taxpayers’ dollars to prevent citizens from finding out how our government is being conducted is not ethical! Giving away city property to those not in need is not ethical! Lakewood has been without accountability for too long!

Ed Graham is an attorney, and former president of Lakewood City Council.

Edward Graham

Ed Graham is an attorney, and former president of Lakewood City Council.

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Volume 14, Issue 13, Posted 6:08 PM, 07.03.2018