EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio --
The Mayor of East Cleveland is drawing heavy criticism for collecting pay for a position that was eliminated.
The State Auditor has declared the City of East Cleveland in a state of “fiscal caution.” While most employees are taking pay cuts, Mayor Gary Norton is giving himself a hefty pay raise.
Back in December, East Cleveland City Council cut $1.3 million from its operating budget. Part of the cost-saving measures included removing Mayor Gary Norton from the position of safety director, which lowered his salary from $77,000 to $40,000. Tuesday night, council members were outraged after they realized the mayor is still collecting pay for the safety director position.
“This council is livid. It is our position to reduce the amount of dollars, the expenditures here in this city of East Cleveland,” said East Cleveland City Council President Dr. Jordan.
Faced with a $5.8 million deficit, Dr. Jordan went on to say, “We have made a concerted effort to reduce the budget, reduce the expenditures here in East Cleveland. The reality is the Mayor continues to want a salary that he is not entitled to.”
Mayor Norton defended his actions by pointing to a petition which he claims requires city council to rescind its decision. After filing a referendum on January 18, the mayor’s last two paychecks have since increased to match his previous salary.
“Essentially, if council makes a decision people don't like, people can form a committee. If we get a certain amount of signatures within 30 days, then it places whatever council did on hold,” said Mayor Norton. “The key to a referendum is that it prevents the action that council took from taking effect.”
The mayor says council has 30 days to take action. If council does not repeal their decision, voters could weigh in on the November ballot.
“So essentially, the changes they made in the salary, it does not take effect until people have a chance to vote on it in November,” Norton said.
The city law director refused to go on camera, but according to a written opinion dated February 1, 2012, Ronald Riley stated, “The Mayor’s initial salary may not be diminished during his present term.”
Dr. Jordan said, “Well, that’s his opinion, and we will take that to court.”