All 11 Cuyahoga County Council members sponsor proposed charter amendment granting subpoena power to inspector general

July 10, 2018

All 11 Cuyahoga County Council members sponsor proposed charter amendment granting subpoena power to inspector general

CLEVELAND, Ohio — All 11 Cuyahoga County Council members are sponsors of a proposed charter amendment that would grant subpoena power to the inspector general, a change that County Executive Armond Budish has said is not needed.

The legislation was introduced Tuesday after being recommended by the Cuyahoga County Charter Review Commission. If approved by council, which is expected, the amendment would be placed before voters on the November ballot.

“I think it is impressive that 11 different people who are all completely unique, and represent different political parties and different regions of the county would be unanimous in believing that we need to give the inspector general more autonomy and more authority,” Council President Dan Brady told cleveland.com.

The discussion around the amendment coincides with an ongoing corruption investigation that Budish said was triggered in part by current Inspector General Mark Griffin. Twelve subpoenas have been served on the county.

Among other things, investigators with the county Prosecutor’s Office have sought emails and other records related to Emily McNeeley, general counsel of the county’s IT department, and her boss, IT Director Scot Rourke. Both McNeeley and Rourke have been placed on unpaid leave.

Griffin told the Charter Review Commission in May that he supported the amendment that would grant him subpoena power, saying that the ability to subpoena is a critical component of his work.

Budish, however, told the commission that the Inspector General’s Office is working well under the powers granted by an ordinance approved by County Council. If council sees fit to grant the inspector general subpoena power, Budish said, that could be done through an ordinance rather than a charter amendment.

Budish also noted that the county has voluntarily complied with the inspector general’s requests for information thus far.

The eight-member charter commission concluded that codifying the inspector general’s office in the county charter would insulate it from future “political whims of the very officeholders that IG’s office might find itself investigating” and make clear that the inspector general is the chief ethics officer of the county, according to a commission report.

The amendment would also stagger the inspector general’s four-year term with the county executive’s, and would guarantee the inspector general enough finances to perform his duties, the report says.

Brady said the support for the amendment from both the 8 Democrats on council and the three Republicans reflects a “culmination of our observations” since voters approved a charter form of county government seven years ago.

“You couldn’t have gotten a majority for this position several years back,” he said. “And so I think actually, some of it has to do with the inspector general himself, who is well thought of.”

Update hourly