Cuyahoga County Court Of Appeals Rules That Lakewood Violated Ohio's Open Records Law

On March 18, 2019 Lakewood City Council President Sam O’Leary placed on the Lakewood City Council meeting agenda a letter captioned “Increasing Government Transparency and Citizen Access in the Council Office.”  

O’Leary now wants to talk about “increasing government transparency.” This is the same person who presided over a multitude of secret “executive session” closed city council meetings designed to keep the public in the blind while the mayor and council plotted to give away Lakewood Hospital. 

O’Leary says “the importance of the public’s free access to public records, and the fundamental notion that in Ohio, public records belong to the people, not the government” as if he actually believed that. If he really did believe that “public records belong to the people, not the government,” wouldn’t he, as president of council, have stepped in and brought to city council’s attention that Brian Essi, one of our Lakewood citizens, was being denied public records to which he was entitled? 

O’Leary, of course, wasn’t about to do anything to help Mr. Essi to obtain the requested public records because he and the mayor did not want the truth discovered about the underhanded crooked activity of city officials in giving away our city hospital and all of its associated assets. 

On March 15, 2016 Brian. Essi began requesting access to Lakewood public records that would have revealed the dishonesty by Lakewood government in its quest to give away Lakewood Hospital and its millions of dollars of valuable medical equipment and millions more of its money to the Cleveland Clinic. 

On June 24, 2016, due to the City’s disobedience of Ohio’s public records law by withholding records, Mr. Essi had to commence a mandamus action in the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals to obtain records to which he was entitled. 

Close to three years after Mr. Essi’s first request for records the appeals court found in his favor and issued a  writ of mandamus to compel the city to produce requested records. The court said that “The citizens have the need and the right to know what their government is doing, especially on matters that affect the mental and physical well-being of the residents and the financial well-being of the community. They have the right and need to know whether their civil servants are effecting their duties properly and with integrity.” 

Giving away our hospital, without question, has “affect[ed] the mental and physical well-being of the residents and the financial well-being of the community.” Unfortunately, Lakewood’s civil servants were not “effecting their duties properly and with integrity.”

In its decision the Court of Appeals acknowledged that “the sale of Lakewood Hospital, which is one of the most important transactions in the city history and that many residents looked upon with suspicion and fear of sell out.”  The fact is that we were sold out by our city officials. 

Rather than acting on behalf of Lakewood citizens, the mayor and council acted on behalf of the Cleveland Clinic and gave away millions and millions of dollars of city property.

The hospital real estate alone, worth over one hundred million dollars, is gone

The fifty million dollars of hospital cash that should have gone to the city is gone.

The millions of dollars of hospital equipment belonging to the city is gone.   

If the city is to have open and honest government, it is time for those city officials who sold us out and gave away our hospital to be gone

Edward Graham

Former Member Lakewood City Council

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Volume 15, Issue 7, Posted 7:53 AM, 04.03.2019