From the moment Monday night’s Richmond Heights City Council meeting began, it was clear that little would be accomplished, government-wise. Council President David H. Roche, accompanied by a graying, well-kept guest attorney from Walter Haverfield
, shuffled off to an executive session immediately after calling the meeting to order, pleading the digital incompetence of his council colleagues. (He said they'd have to review legislation, as some of them weren’t able to open their emails that morning).
The meeting was in fact of the special variety, assembled at the behest of council to discuss, and potentially approve, embattled Mayor Miesha Headen’s personnel appointments for a city staff that has been depleted by rampant dismissals and resignations.
Headen, whose turbulent tenure began in December, fired a bunch of folks and has been trying to right the ship for the past month or so. Supporters maintain that a mayor, like the head of any organization or private enterprise, has the right to bring in her own people. Critics counter that her firings were unduly vindictive, and that it was imprudent to handicap the city by getting rid of key personnel without replacements waiting in the wings.
Thus the latest turmoil.
Mayor Headen called emergency meetings for last Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. But council members, after failing to rouse themselves for attendance at Thursday evening’s assembly, told the Mayor that they’d be unable to present a quorum over the weekend.
“Nine o'clock on Father's Day was kind of restrictive," Roche told the NEOMG’s Sara Dorn.
Turned out Monday night was mostly preambulatory. The only appointment council saw fit to approve was the police prosecutor, Michael Cicero. Council required “more information” about Law Director appointee Joseph Szeman (which Roche said Headen would provide); and a potential union dispute stalled approval of the city service director. The ordinance which was to approve the city building manager required some changes, Roche said, so that was put on hold as well.
The finance director appointee, Mitchell Michalek, was present Monday evening and sat for an executive session interview, before which Roche told everyone that council would reconvene Tuesday evening.
Residents in attendance, many of them vocal Headen supporters, were dismayed by the ongoing antics of council, who they view as deliberately delaying these appointments to further enrage and/or punish the Mayor.
“She’s a young, African-American woman who wants to be a mayor," said resident Joyce Presser. “And they don’t like that.”
“Fiasco is a good word for it,” said one fleeing resident after Roche said nothing would be done until Tuesday.
“I’ve got another word for it,” said resident Anne Bloomberg. “It begins with B.S.”
Mitchell Michalek told Scene
that he’s been working at Richmond Heights since early June, (without council's official approval) and that he hopes he can get along with both the Mayor and council moving forward. Michalek, formerly the finance director for Streetsboro, said not one council member reached out to him prior to Monday’s meeting to do any personal vetting.
As for the Mayor:
“Her vetting process was extensive,” Michalek said. “Definitely not a snap decision.”
Mayor Headen had begged council for cooperation in a string of emails last week, arguing that the city ran the risk of defaulting on bond payments without the installation of a finance director. According to the Mayor's Special Assistant Ed Busch, that issue was resolved (at least temporarily) at Monday's meeting.