CLEVELAND – The City of Cleveland hired a disgraced former judge who served prison time for beating his wife, despite applications from 15 other candidates for the position.
City administrators contend Lance Mason, a convicted felon, was the most qualified candidate for the job.
Mason pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence and attempted felonious assault for attacking his wife in 2014. Police said Mason viciously choked, punched and bit the victim. It happened inside a vehicle in Shaker Heights and was witnessed by the couple's two daughters.
Mason served time behind bars from September 2015 through June 2016.
Then, he was hired for a $45,000 per year job as Minority Business Development Administrator in the city's Office of Equal Opportunity. Fifteen other candidates applied for the position. Mason began working for the city on August 28, 2017.
Mason's application does not indicate his criminal record, and the city in 2011 eliminated a box on its applications to be checked by those convicted of crimes.
The mayor's office declined a request for an on-camera interview to discuss the hiring and instead provided a statement from the Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, Dr. Melinda Burrows:
“Lance Mason was simply the most qualified candidate for this position,” Burrows said. “I made the decision to hire Mr. Mason because of his expertise in reading, understanding, and interpreting contracts and other legal documents. In addition he is the only candidate with a law degree. These skills are very beneficial to the specifics of this position and the challenges we will face.”
In the past, Mayor Frank Jackson has said he believes in offering people second chances.
City spokesperson Latoya Hunter said a Fair Hiring Policy went into effect in 2011 to provide a second chance to those with a criminal record by removing the conviction history during the interview process an delaying a background check until later in the hiring process.
In an email, Hunter said a background check is run on everyone after an offer has been made and accepted.
"We give every candidate a fair opportunity to be part of the hiring process. The decision to hire/not hire is never based on their criminal history," Hunter said.
She said Jackson was not involved in the hiring and only participates in the hiring of personnel who are members of his cabinet or direct reports.