Cleveland City Council Cautions Community Police Commission About Avoiding Oversight!
FEATURED PHOTO: COUNCILMAN CHARLIE SLIFE D-WARD 17
IdeastreamPublicMedia.org, By Matthew Richmond, Posted May 11th 2023
As the Cleveland Community Police Commission (CPC) starts its work, some city councilmembers are seeking to assert authority over the $1 million in grant money controlled by the commission.
While the section of the charter that gives the CPC its authority – 115-5 – does not state that council approval is required before the CPC awards individual grants, any city agency needs council approval for expenditures over $50,000.
During a safety committee meeting last month, West Park Councilmember Charles Slife called out one commission member by name – John Adams – for his comments at a recent commission meeting.
Slife took issue with Adams’ argument that the CPC should avoid going to council for approval before issuing grants.
“This is transparency, this is bringing things before the voters,” Slife said. “And I don’t appreciate that there would be any rhetoric out there that having to bring something to city council is some type of burden.”
Adams said in an interview with Ideastream Public Media following the council meeting that he supports oversight of grants. His concern is with the politics in council.
“We don’t want to be in a position where council becomes too involved in our grants,” Adams said. “They may want to steer grants to their wards, to their political allies, and we’re here to serve the whole city.”
Adams said they may end up turning over the grant funding to a third-party agency to oversee. There are several examples of the city doing this with other funding, including money for lead paint remediation or legal aid for people facing eviction.
Despite those other examples, Slife took issue with this idea.
“The idea that we would give our oversight to some third party that is not accountable to voters just baffles me,” he said.
Adams was adamant the CPC should avoid council, describing it as against the independence of the commission.
“My concern is with bringing politics into the commission,” Adams said. “How are we going to be independent if we have to keep coming to council for everything? I just want the commission to stay separate from politics.”
Commission members are currently going through training. The commission’s permanent committees have not been formed yet, and no grants have been awarded.
The commission is in the process of creating its bylaws and the origin of the idea that council approval would not be needed before the CPC spends more than $50,000 is unclear.
One possibility is a 2021 written briefing on the ballot measure that created the CPC that made the rounds among city officials, including at city council, before Issue 24 passed.
Some of the details from that briefing are still on council’s website, including the line: “Thecommission will have a budget of no less than $1 million annually and can enter into contracts or spend without legislative authority or approval from the executive branch.”
The statement about spending without “legislative authority” is not found anywhere in section 115-5.