I-Team investigation sparks debate about Cleveland hiring convicts

CLEVELAND -- The FOX 8 I-Team has sparked a raging debate after revealing dozens of convicted felons working for the City of Cleveland just in one department including two killers.

Hundreds and hundreds of viewers have commented about this on the FOX 8 Facebook page. And now some city council members say the city should have a better idea of what jobs are getting filled with felons.

The I-Team began investigating after the mayor said he has a policy of giving convicts second chances, even murderers. But he said he didn’t know which jobs they’d been hired to do.

So the I-Team began by looking at employees of the waste collection department. Out of more than 200 employees we found nearly a third have felony records. Two have been to prison for killing someone. One is a sex offender. Many others have long rap sheets for violence and more.

One person commented on the FOX 8 Facebook page, “No reason to be hiring felons when there are law abiding citizens out there looking for jobs.”

But another said, “Felons deserve to be employed and productive…” And others agreed saying, “I’d rather see them working and paying taxes….”

Councilman Mike Polensek says second chances are great, but the city needs to be careful when placing felons in particular jobs. Polensek said, "We are in the service business. And they need to be guaranteeing the public (the workers) are in the right position. Safeguarding the public.”

A spotlight on this now with the case of Lance Mason -- a convicted felon hired by the city. Mason has been indicted for the murder of his ex-wife. He had gone to prison years ago for attacking her.

But Council President Kevin Kelley told the I-Team the city should not stop hiring felons. He said, “But in general, members of council support the notion that somebody should have a second chance.”

No question. Sometimes the city hiring felons leads to success stories. Consider, the traffic controller. Almost a decade ago, the city created an uproar by hiring a sex offender as a traffic controller. We’ve found he still holds the job after all this time.

Again though, the I-Team found some convicts hired by the city have long records. So Councilman Kelley believes taxpayers have a right to know where felon city employees are working. He said, “It’s good to know who’s where, what employees we have. And I think, not so much to police it, but to let the community know.”

Yet even after all of this, the city does not keep track.

Kelley said he has no plans to call for a hearing on this.

The mayor has no plans to change any policies.

So, the only way you’ll find out exactly what jobs felons are doing for the city may be after another I-Team investigation.

Continuing coverage, here.