CLEVELAND, OH – Council Vice President and East Cleveland Sunrise publisher Juanita Gowdy is counting on the truth that the voters of East Cleveland know more than a few things about Mayor Brandon King that disgusts them as she challenges him for the “chief law enforcement officer”s job he holds illegally as a Richmond Heights resident. Elected officials under Ohio laws must be residents of the community they’re elected to serve.
For the past nearly two years, Gowdy and East Cleveland Sunrise co-publisher Justyn Anderson have been distributing their 5000 circulation newspaper to every household, door-to-door, providing information-starved voters and residents with details about the “dirty dealings” taking place inside the King administration. Gowdy and Anderson told EJBNEWS they got the idea to spread regular doses of the truth from the East Cleveland Challenger and the East Cleveland Tattler.
King and his friends were and are robbing the city blind while making up lies to deceive residents who thought they could trust him, Gowdy said. “We had to do something when his administration started losing $50 million lawsuits we know voters will never be able to pay.”
Gowdy said residents now know King doesn’t live in the city and lied about his residency when he ran for council and then mayor. King doesn’t live at 1735 Elsinore Road in a rowhouse apartment his brother resides in that’s been raided twice for drugs.
1735 Elsinore is where several King brothers fraudulently claim to live in Sheldon King’s apartment so they can vote in the city in violation of election laws, according to Cecil King. Sheldon King is the brother convicted for drug dealing and child endangering from inside the apartment the mayor’s voting address claims adult King men with families share. The mayor and his brothers must not have been at the apartment and left Sheldon to take the hit for the King organized crime family during the raids.
Gowdy said residents now know King is a hot-tempered thief who’s employees like Michael Smedley and Melran Leach, along with ex-mayor Gary Norton, are either being criminally-investigated or named in federal indictments for crimes in public office. Numerous residents know King received a subpoena from the Ohio Ethics Commission for records associated with his selling office supplies to city hall as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Gowdy said King’s chief of police, Scott Gardner, was twice-convicted for felonies he pleaded down to misdemeanors that makes him ineligible to be certified as a law enforcement officer, according to section 737.02(2)(a) of the Revised Code of Ohio. Gardner was indicted back to back by two prosecutors between Cuyahoga and Medina county in 2013 and 2014.
Gowdy said King would have made himself look like a hero to East Cleveland residents had he fired him after Norton failed to do so. The heading for the law is “Felony conviction precludes or terminates employment.”
(2)(a) The director of public safety shall terminate the employment of a chief of police, member of the police department, or auxiliary police officer who does either of the following: (i) Pleads guilty to a felony; (ii) Pleads guilty to a misdemeanor pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement as provided in division (D) of section 2929.43 of the Revised Code in which the chief of police, member of the police department, or auxiliary police officer agrees to surrender the certificate awarded to the chief of police, member of the police department, or auxiliary police officer under section 109.77 of the Revised Code.
Gowdy told EJBNEWS that had King fired Gardner like a state general law requires, so many residents the police the unfit “chief” stations and transfers have been pursuing and shooting to death might still be alive or uninjured. The members of the city’s Civil Service Commission resigned in February after not operating lawfully since 2016. None of the police hired or promoted have been appointed through Civil Service testing. That list includes Larry McDonald who removed his bodycam before shooting Vincent Belmonte in the back of the head.
The state Civil Service Commission is investigating the Civil Service law violations and King has been warned to take the investigation seriously. Gowdy said Gardner will have no future with East Cleveland as his two convictions mean the private security company owner should have long ago been fired.
Gowdy said once elected she’s going to follow the model the Brewer administration implemented by making public employee accountability and an obedience to federal, state and local laws a mandate. Without all the police pursuits, violence towards citizens and police killings, Gowdy said East Cleveland residents remember how crime in every category was reduced by 40 to 70 percent between January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2009.
During an interview, Gowdy told EJBNEWS how she disagrees with demolishing homes that could be renovated with the same money. Instead of demolishing 125 homes like King is planning as a way to direct more no-bid contracts to his friends, she wants them renovated and sold at cost.
“If it costs $25,000 to renovate a home in our landbank we can sell it for $25,000 and reinvest the money into another property and resell it at cost … too,” Gowdy said. “The “D” in “HUD” is “Development” and not “Demolition.” She wants resident homeowners to have access to HUD dollars to help with their repairs.
Gowdy said she disagreed very strongly with former Mayor Gary Norton’s decision to aid Cleveland Clinic’s plan to close Huron Hospital in 2011; and to be paid $8 million in exchange for losing the income taxes that came from its 1100 workers. 300 of the hospital’s workers were residents and the closing emptied the apartment buildings surrounding the hospital for workers who could walk next door or across the street to work.
Gowdy blasted Norton for taking the $8 million and spending it as he pleased. Norton didn’t spend a dime of the money for new service vehicles to plow or repave and clean the city’s streets and parks; or for new fire safety equipment. Norton spent nothing for tree trimming equipment in a city full of trees.
Gowdy wants council and the residents once she’s mayor to support a small property tax to build a free fully-equipped emergency room for residents who would pay only $1 a year for every $1000 in property value. $25 a year on a $25,000 home.
With the $25 million the city is getting from the federal government, Gowdy wants the current council and a new one to use a portion of the money to build the emergency room and the small tax would fund it. The emergency room would be free to residents with no health care. Whatever Medicare, Medicaid or a person’s health care coverage paid would cover the additional costs. Residents would have no “out of pocket” costs. Non-residents would be required to pay.
“We have to consider putting physicians instead of untrained EMS workers on our ambulances. We have residents being shot and beaten; or involved in car crashes that causes serious injuries,” Gowdy said. “The nearest emergency room is University Hospitals and more of our people are dying after Huron Hospital and its gunshot wound trauma center closed. Free emergency room care would add an extremely affordable value to being an East Cleveland resident and increase the desire for people to live in our city.”
Gowdy also wants a portion of the money to be spent on upgrading all the equipment in the city’s service department that Norton did not upgrade with the $8 million in Huron Hospital closing dollars he wasted. She wants the baseball diamonds improved in the parks as well as the tennis courts.
“Our residents lived a much better suburban lifestyle with greater health amenities before criminals took over our government,” she said.
During her first year on city council, after winning in 2019, Gowdy has been investigating problems with King’s management of the municipal workforce as well as his contracting and compliances problems. She’s found that King has not been administering oaths of office to employees and delivering the oaths to the council clerk.
This has been a problem issue, particularly, for the city’s law department King lets private attorney Willa Hemmons leads. Neither attorney has obtained the approval of or reported to council before they initiated or responded to litigation as required by Ohio laws. Hemmons is a resident of Beachwood who has no legal authority to discharge the law director’s duties as a private contract attorney. Gowdy said the ate Almeta Johnson was the last person qualified under Ohio law to serve as the director of law.
Gowdy said Hemmons and Heather McCullough can expect to be fired. So can Michael Smedley. Police officers without certifications and still discharging a law enforcement officers duties can expect to be held fully-accountable within laws.
“We don’t need a high speed pursuit policy and the police chief doesn’t get to write a police department’s rules or regulations under Ohio law,” Gowdy said. “We already have a state law that instructs them when they can and cannot pursue or cross the borders of another city. The Ohio Revised Code gives the Director of Public Safety rule writing authority for city police. Rules written by the police chief is evidence of a police chief exceeding the authority of their public employment.”
Gowdy said Ohio’s general assembly has written a warrantless pursuit “general law” and she just got council to approve an ordinance that requires the director of law, prosecuting attorney and judge to use R.C. 2935.03 in evaluating every pursuit. Ord. No. 525.03 is named the Tamia Chappman Act.”
The local law Gowdy sponsored makes it a requirement for the law department to ensure every police officer bringing charges against a citizen is authorized by law to do so by delivering the oath and training records to every person they arrest. If they pursue outside the law the pursuing “law enforcement officer impersonators” will be responsible for their own legal representation and damages.
They must possess an oath of office that’s filed in the clerk of council’s office pursuant to R.C. 705.28; in addition to maintaining current and approved Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy credentials as required of R.C. 109.81.
They’ve also got to operate the equipment in police cars in obedience with federal and state criminal laws; and not violate R.C. 2913.04 or the FBI’s NCIC 2000 Manual to access the Mobile Display Units. All this information is required to be delivered to citizens in criminal proceedings to ensure the city isn’t later sued for a civil rights violation. Gowdy is opposed to police using automatic license plate readers that council has not authorized them to buy or use through an ordinance or resolution.
“The taxpayers of East Cleveland are not going to pay for their unlawful behavior and violations of civil rights,” Gowdy said.
The twice-convicted Gardner exceeded the authority of the police chief when he wrote an opinion to council claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional; and that he wasn’t going to enforce it. Gowdy said the ordinance authorizes residents to file criminal complaints against the law enforcement officer who violates it; and requires Judge William Dawson and the prosecutor to enforce it. She said Gardner has no legal opinion-writing authority and intends to deal with his duty-exceeding criminal misconduct once elected as the city’s chief law enforcement officer.
“I’m not worried about Scott Gardner,” the East Cleveland Sunrise publisher told EJBNEWS. “East Cleveland’s policing will be reformed. The slave-catching mindset of the city’s police officers will not be tolerated in 2022.”
East Cleveland’s charter is partisan. Since no Republicans or third party candidates have competed in the last three elections the Democrat who wins the primary heads, alone, to the November general election. Voters will have once chance during the primary to elect the candidate of their choice.
[DISCLOSURE: This writer is the former Mayor of East Cleveland, Ohio and I have been aiding Council Vice President Juanita Gowdy and co-East Cleveland Sunrise publisher Justyn Anderson for the past three years in understanding the complexities of municipal management from a statutory perspective.]