Recklessly irresponsible Cleveland demo contractor’s safety violations endangered walkers and drivers

CLEVELAND, OH – The money it would have cost William Baumann to ensure he and his employees obeyed laws that protected the public and his workers on his $500,000 contract with the City of Cleveland would have spared him the emotional angst he’s going to experience when he reads these words.  But this irresponsible demolition contractor’s public safety-violating tactics to keep the “fencing and barricading” dollars in his pockets is the reason city officials were alerted about how Baumann “daily” threatened public safety when he demolished 10101 Woodland Avenue without barricading the sidewalk.

From the beginning of the  asbestos remediation and demoliton of the former Victoreen building where radioactive parts for the Manhattan Project’s atomic bomb were made,  this writer photographed the progress on the property “inside and out” and “top to bottom” for a client.  It included the pile of asbestos Baumann didn’t remove as he crushed a building that was not in his notice to the Ohio EPA.  When Baumann’s safety violations were initially discovered this writer drove by the site daily to capture still and video images of them.

Upon seeing the couple walk by the building with their child, and knowing only the wall remained, this writer warned the threatened family to cross the street as he was witnessed crumbling brick and concrete falling on the sidewalk they were approaching.  

This writer then captured video of his encounter with a Baumann worker in which he’s asked if he’s going to secure the sidewalk.  The “yes” response from the worker is a result of their second counter.  When this writer asked the Baumann employee if he was going to ensure the sidewalk was secured the first time he said, “probably.”  This writer went back to his vehicle to retrieve his Ipad to record his second response.

No barricading. A hose pointed away from where an excavator was actually crushing the building. All recorded on video. [Photo by Eric Jonathan Brewer]
A return to the demolition site around midnight revealed that only the debris from the sidewalk was cleared.  No fencing.  No barricaded sidewalk or blocked driving lane. 

This writer is a former mayor who worked with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.  Contact was made with Valarie McCall.  She directed city workers to the site to demand that Baumann erect a fence, barricade the sidewalk and block the driving lane as they should have done when director Ayona Donald claimed they’d been responsible and inspected it.  Donald didn’t inspect the site herself to learn of Baumann’s barricading violations.

Ohio EPA officials have previously cited the Baumann’s and taken them to court for the illegal dumping they’ve been doing on E. 131st Street and Broadway in Garfield Heights.  The contaminants and pollution from their “family run” operation has been a source of irritation for Mayor Vic Collova and Councilman Michael Dudley.  The ground up construction materials they’ve stored at the property is an environmental hazard that seeps deadly chemicals into Mill Creek down the street from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown’s home. 

A GoogleEarth view of the Baumann property that shows how close they’re allowing deadly chemicals to runoff into Mill Creek.

The Baumann’s are under a court order to remove over 100,000 cubic yards of unlawfully stored construction debris near residential properties.

All this makes it ridiculous that Baumann’s threatening litigation for the discovery and reporting of his “threat to public safety” business practices.  The attorney Baumann will speak to about the type of claim he’ll want to file will be familiar with Rule 11 and the potential loss of his or her law license if they do.  He may also remind him of some other realities.

Baumann submitted a bid to receive public funds on a public contract.  All of the records and acts associated with the contract is “the public’s business” and “public”, not “Baumann’s business” and “private.”  If he doesn’t want public scrutiny he should have avoided violating laws while working on public contracts.

The MBE company whose job site property Baumann vandalized reported his misconduct to building department officials who were supposed to be supervising him. The MBE company’s role in the project was to remediate and remove identified asbestos.  Baumann harassed the company’s owner and employees. [Photo by Eric Jonathan Brewer]
Pursuant to R.C. 2921.01(B)(2) contractors like Baumann become “public servants” as they are performing the “ad hoc” duties of government officials as their surrogates.   

“(B) “Public servant” means any of the following:  (2) Any person performing ad hoc a governmental function, including, but not limited to, a juror, member of a temporary commission, master, arbitrator, advisor, or consultant.”

In the capacity of a “public servant” Baumann had “duties” to perform that included barricading the property for safety purposes and complying with all “notice” requirements with the city’s departments and the Ohio EPA. 

As a public servant Baumann’s failure to perform the public duties council approved a contract for him to perform can be seen as “dereliction of duty” as a violation of R.C. 2921.44(E) as an “offense against public administration.”  In his ad hoc capacity as a public servant Baumann could not keep the “barricade” dollars in his pockets ahead of his “public duty” to protect public safety.

“(E) No public servant shall recklessly fail to perform a duty expressly imposed by law with respect to the public servant’s office, or recklessly do any act expressly forbidden by law with respect to the public servant’s office.”

Since federal and state laws, and city ordinances, required Baumann to perform the public duties expressly imposed by law to barricade the property he was demolishing for public safety and he didn’t; the derelict public servant could be seen as “obstructing Mayor Frank Jackson’s official business to protect public safety pursuant to R.C. 2921.31.  It’s a 5th degree felony under the heading, “Obstructing official business.”

(A) No person, without privilege to do so and with purpose to prevent, obstruct, or delay the performance by a public official of any authorized act within the public official’s official capacity, shall do any act that hampers or impedes a public official in the performance of the public official’s lawful duties.

(B) Whoever violates this section is guilty of obstructing official business. Except as otherwise provided in this division, obstructing official business is a misdemeanor of the second degree. If a violation of this section creates a risk of physical harm to any person, obstructing official business is a felony of the fifth degree.

By threatening litigation against someone who reported his obstruction of “Mayor Frank Jackson’s official business” to the mayor in his official capacity as the city’s “chief law enforcement officer,” Baumann’s attorney may advise his client that as a “public servant” he’s engaged in “retaliation.”  That’s a 3rd degree felony as another “offense against public administration” pursuant to R.C. 2921.05.   The heading is “retalation.”

(A) No person, purposely and by force or by unlawful threat of harm to any person or property, shall retaliate against a public servant, a party official, or an attorney or witness who was involved in a civil or criminal action or proceeding because the public servant, party official, attorney, or witness discharged the duties of the public servant, party official, attorney, or witness.  (B) No person, purposely and by force or by unlawful threat of harm to any person or property, shall retaliate against the victim of a crime because the victim filed or prosecuted criminal charges.  (C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of retaliation, a felony of the third degree.

What Baumann may not realize is that the family in the picture has the right to file a criminal complaint against him for what’s obviously a threat to their safety as he violated laws legislators enacted that Mayor Frank Jackson gave him a public contract to obey. 

Imagine a building that contained radioactive materials that were used in the Manhattan Project to make the first atomic bomb during World War II. Now imagine all the “loose” materials that was blown from the building into the lungs and onto the skin of thousands of nearby residents for years. This is a view right below the collapsed roof. [Photo by Eric Jonathan Brewer]
The tool for them to hold Baumann accountable for obstructing the mayor and council’s desire to protect them is found in R.C. 2935.09 and 2935.10.  It’s where Ohio law lets anyone with knowledge of a crime present a simple affidavit to a “reviewing official” to cause his arrest.

The building the family was approaching was not a building. but a deadly structure he’d created.  Parts of it were crumbling in front of this writer as the couple approached.  They had no idea of the potential doom that could have struck them because of Baumann’s failure to perform his ad hoc duties as a public servant.

The closed sidewalk and blocked right traffic lane are the result of this writer’s complaint to Mayor Frank Jackson about a contractor who failed to perform one of his ad hoc duties as a public servant … William Baumann. Baumann’s reckless disregard for the duties the mayor and council authorized him to be paid $500,000 to perform created a safety hazard for nearby residents and motorists because he wanted to keep the dollars he would have paid to protect them in his own greedy pockets. The rerouting of the sidewalk and traffic also came with a relocation of two RTA bus stops. Any resident or motorist who may have been harmed by Baumann’s recklessness has an “individual” right to file a criminal complaint against him pursuant to R.C. 2935.09 and 2935.10.  [Photo by Eric Jonathan Brewer]
If this recklessness doesn’t get Baumann prosecuted for the offenses against public administration he’s known to have committed.  It may get him removed from bidding on any additional city contracts. 

Had the building collapsed on the family while this writer was filming, the video of it would be worldwide and there’d be hard core and angry demands for Baumann to be brought to justice.

Eric Jonathan Brewer

Cleveland's most influential journalist and East Cleveland's most successful mayor is an East Saint Louis, Illinois native whose father led the city's petition drive in 1969 to elect the first black mayor in 1971. Eric is an old-school investigative reporter whose 40-year body of editorial work has been demonstrably effective. No local journalist is feared or respected more.

Trained in newspaper publishing by the legendary Call & Post Publisher William Otis Walker in 1978 when it was the nation's 5th largest Black-owned publication, Eric has published and edited 13 local, regional and statewide publications across Ohio. Adding to his publishing and reporting resume is Eric's career in government. Eric served as the city's highest paid part-time Special Assistant to ex-Cleveland Mayor Michael R. White. He served as Chief of Staff to ex-East Cleveland Mayor Emmanuel Onunwor; and Chief of Communications to the late George James in his capacity as the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's first Black executive director. Eric was appointed to serve as a member of the state's Financial Planning & Supervision Commission to guide the East Cleveland school district out of fiscal emergency and $20 million deficit. Former U.S. HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told Eric in his D.C. office he was the only mayor in the nation simultaneously-managing a municipal block grant program. Eric wrote the city's $2.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant application. A HUD Inspector General audit of his management of the block grant program resulted in "zero" audit findings.

As a newspaper publisher, Eric has used his insider's detailed knowledge of government and his publications to lead the FBI and state prosecutors to investigations that resulted in criminal prosecutions of well-known elected officials in Ohio; and have helped realign Cleveland's political landscape with the defeat of candidates and issues he's exposed. Eric's stories led to the indictments of the late Governor George Voinovich's brother, Paul Voinovich of the V Group, and four associates. He asked the FBI to investigate the mayor he'd served as chief of staff for public corruption; and testified in three federal trials for the prosecution. He forced former Cuyahoga County Coroner Dr. Elizabeth Balraj to admit her investigations of police killings were fraudulent; and to issue notices to local police that her investigators would control police killing investigations. Eric's current work has resulted in Cuyahoga County Judge John Russo accepting the criminal complaint he guided an activist to file against 24 civil rights-violating police officers in the city he once led for operating without valid peace officer credentials. USA Today reporters picked up on Eric's police credentials reporting from his social media page and made it national.

Eric is the author of of his first book, "Fight Police License Plate Spying," which examines the FBI and local police misuse of the National Crime Information Center criminal records history database. An accomplished trumpet player and singer whose friendship with Duke Fakir of the Four Tops resulted in his singing the show's closing song, "Can't Help Myself": Curtis Sliwa of New York's Guardian Angels counts Eric among his founding chapter leaders from the early 1980's role as an Ohio organizer of over 300 volunteer crime fighters in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, Ohio. For his work as a young man Eric was recognized by Cleveland's Urban League as it's 1983 Young Man of the Year.

Known in Cleveland for his encyclopedic knowledge of government and history, and intimately-connected with the region's players, every local major media outlet in Cleveland has picked up on one of Eric's stories since 1979. There is no mainstream newspaper, television or radio outlet in Cleveland that does not include an interview with Eric Jonathan Brewer in its archives over the past 40 years.

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