DOUG BROWN / SCENE
East Cleveland City Hall
While a Cleveland City Council committee hearing devolved into a conniption fit
(and a questionable 5-3 vote among seven committee members), the East Cleveland City Council saw its own version of local government fireworks last night when its law director continued to insist that two new appointments to the council — and the very council meeting
— are illegal. Willa Hemmons, the city law director and an attorney who has represented members of former Mayor Gary Norton's family, stormed out of council chambers before the meeting even began, according to reports
To back up a bit: Following the recall
of Norton and Council President Thomas Wheeler, Council VP Brandon King was elevated to mayor. Council members appointed Devin Branch (Ward 3), a leader of the recall effort, and Kelvin Earby (at-large) to the two vacant positions. Hemmons said that the council lacked a quorum during those appointments, though, legally speaking, two of the three elected officials were present.
At last night's meeting, council members Nathaniel Martin, Barbara Thomas, Branch and Earby continued the meeting after Hemmons left. Council member Joie Graham was not present; she said that she had not been alerted to the meeting, which was why Hemmons spoke out against it.
Merger talks between Cleveland and East Cleveland have largely publicly stalled, but there is much work to be done among this new council and in concert with the new mayor. The city remains in fiscal emergency, according to the state of Ohio, and a lack of basic city services (like, at various times, a working fire truck) have plagued the residents for years. Political arguments, the likes of which have been a marquee agenda item at many council meetings attended by Scene
in the past, are only throwing obstacles between those residents and the shared goal of good government.
As Thomas said at the meeting: "I keep looking at my residents and they're the ones becoming collateral damage."