CLEVELAND, OH – If Mayor Justin Bibb had passed the Ohio Bar Association’s examination and obtained a license to practice law in Ohio before he decided to campaign for a job as Cleveland’s chief law enforcement officer; he might not be racking-up a felony-level list of federal and state laws he’s violating as mayor. Nothing in Bibb’s background identified him as being prime time ready to manage a 6000 employee municipal corporation with a budget footprint that exceeds $2.5 billion.
From his violation of Ohio’s campaign finance reporting laws, to those that invalidate his oath of office, Bibb is just days away from having a Clevelander with statute-specific knowledge of his law breaking file a complaint against him. If Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) trustee member Valarie McCall took a justifiably-retributive forensic legal look at Bibb’s duty-exceeding attempt to remove her from office; she would be the Clevelander putting former Cleveland Mayor Michael Reed White’s protege in front of a judge.
It is obvious from his news release that Bibb did not read Chapter 306 of the Ohio Revised Code before he called himself on February 9, 2022 appointing Jeffrey Sleasman to the GCRTA seat former Mayor Frank Jackson first assigned to McCall in 2006. The statutory instructions for operating a countywide transit system exist in Chapter 306 of Ohio’s unsuspended general laws. If Sleasman was supposed to represent him on the GCRTA board, and is supposed to be a transit advocate, then he should have familiarized himself with Chapter 306 of the Ohio Revised Code and asked Bibb about section 306.33. Chapter 306 is headlined, “County Transit System; Regional Transit Authority; Regional Transit Commission.” An advocate should know the general laws of the governmental body they’re seeking to join.
Section 306.33 of the Ohio Revised Code instructed Bibb that, “the appointing authority may at any time remove a trustee for misfeasance, nonfeasance, or malfeasance in office.” Since Bibb had no evidence, and had brought no charges forth that McCall engaged in misfeasance, nonfeasance or malfeasance in office, he had no statutory authority to nominate Sleasman to replace her. If he knew the law and was protecting Bibb from his own ignorance of it, Sleasman should have advised the mayor that they would be participating in a crime against McCall’s civil rights to move forward.
Acting without legal authority is a crime. Dereliction of duty. Bibb also obstructed the official business of the municipal corporation with his “sham” appointment resolution. Bibb further interfered with McCall’s civil rights under the “color” of the public office he holds. His reckless acts further held McCall up for public ridicule and scorn as a victim of a ridiculous editorial from Cleveland Scene calling for her resignation because the reporter got the story wrong. McCall should resign, according to Cleveland Scene, so Bibb can keep his campaign promise to appoint Sleasman. Bibb said he was using the office of mayor to keep a “campaign promise” as he violated unsuspended general laws.
Terms of transit authority board members are for three years. Once appointed the appointee’s duty is to serve until the term of office expires. McCall can leave on her own. The mayor has the authority pursuant to Section 733.34 of the Ohio Revised Code to “supervise the conduct” of the municipal corporation’s “officers” if they screw up like Bibb did on two boards.
Consider that Bibb missed 16 meetings as Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s appointee to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority board of trustees. He missed 42 percent of the votes as a member of Cleveland’s charter review commission. His own board performance on two public bodies reflects poorly on his inattentive appointing authorities. They missed learning about all the information he missed as an officer whose duty is to report to his appointing authorities.
Bibb should have learned by now to read constitutions and laws before he acts. It’s what he swore to do before Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Michael Nelson as the official who administered his oath of office pursuant to Section 705.28 of the Ohio Revised Code.
A reading of Article 1, Section 18 of the Constitution of Ohio would have instructed Bibb that “No power of suspending laws shall ever be exercised, except by the general assembly.” His duty as a “law enforcement officer” as defined in Section 2901.01(11)(c) of the Ohio Revised Code is to ensure that the Constitutions of the United States and Ohio are upheld; and that all federal, state and local laws are enforced. Disobeying a law acts to suspend it. A public official has no authority to enact a “policy” to circumvent or suspend a law that gets in the way of their desire to ignore and violate it.
In all matters that involve the “office” of “mayor” Bibb has to restrain his conduct and supervise his administration to obeying two constitutions and enforcing laws that include the ones which apply to them. When confronted with a law that limits his official conduct Bibb has a duty to stop. In this case he did but only after his February 9, 2022 news release explained in detail the crime against McCall he was attempting. Even the public official writing Bibb’s news releases should have enough knowledge of the mayor’s statutory duties to know when a public announcement is ill-advised.
The “welcome” mat at Cleveland city hall is wearing thin for Bibb with each passing day of his less than 90 day old administration. His reckless spending habits have already created unlawful departmental deficits that will be recorded in the 2022 state audit of the city’s finances. Council will soon be reviewing “management letters” from Ohio Auditor of State David Yost spelling out the departmental deficits, unauthorized funds transfers, material weaknesses and statutory non-compliance in the finance department.
Bibb’s finance director, Ahmed Abonamah, doesn’t have a clue about municipal finance coming from the United States Securities & Exchange Commission. Abonamah cannot explain how Cleveland buys, bills and pays for electricity or the issues surrounding rates that have not been updated since 1981. Like ex-Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, I see a budget busting deficit and “findings for recovery” ending Bibb’s first year in office. He doesn’t even know he’s being hustled by cops and firefighters for extra overtime.
Voters who voted and those who sat out the general election between Bibb and his opponent are starting to not like what they see in him; especially his “skin folk.” He wants the “chase you to death” state troopers back in a city whose residents previously and loudly said “no.” His administration looks a lot less like Cleveland than it did under Jackson.
If he was smart Bibb would be begging McCall to be in his “ear.” He didn’t campaign against Jackson so he should have no personal beef with the former mayor or his workers. McCall served as one of White’s executive assistants. She served as the Clerk of Council for some of the current council members. She’s served as Jackson’s “executive assistant” since the beginning of his administration. She’s built relationships through all her board interactions that open a door to other officials who are important to the city. McCall’s handled enough problems for Jackson to know administrative secrets that come with political, management and criminal dangers a new mayor want to avoid.
Bibb isn’t looking at his chess pieces right.