CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The FOX 8 I-Team is asking what are you getting for your money with a group overseeing reform in the Cleveland Police Department? We’ve found some members of the group have already earned more than a hundred thousand bucks.
This federal monitoring team has well over a dozen members with each earning $250 an hour. The group has been working on police reform in Cleveland for over a year, but to the average taxpayer what stands out is that hourly rate.
Wednesday, the Cleveland City Council Public Safety Committee called in the group for an update. And some councilmembers asked some of the same questions we did.
The I-Team found Matthew Barge, as leader of the group has already earned more than $143,000. Records show Ayesha Hardaway, another group member at the meeting, has earned more than $111,000.
We asked Barge to tell us what specifically has changed on the streets so far as a result of the group’s work. He said the group just finished helping to revise the Cleveland Police Use of Force policy. However, training may not begin on that for some time. The group is also working on changing the system for handling citizen complaints against police, and reviewing shortcomings in equipment for Cleveland police.
Councilman Brian Kazy has been the biggest critic of the cost. He confronted Barge saying, "You can spin it any way you want to, I just can't fathom the fact that you say you've worked 406 days on the Cleveland consent decree.”
Kazy also raised questions about how the bills are documented. He pointed out that some are specific and some are very vague mentioning sending e-mails and having meetings in general terms.
The I-Team calculated the potential cost to you just for that council meeting: five group members at $250 an hour for a 3-hour meeting. The potential bill would be $3,750. But when questioned by the I-Team and Councilman Kazy, Barge said the members would not bill for the meeting.
He said group members only bill for about half their work. Hardaway said she handles her work and time sheets with “integrity."
Barge says the group is working through longstanding problems in the police department with equipment, policies and even leadership. He added, "This is a 5-year project. It doesn't happen overnight." He said spending is capped for the total project, so it can’t go over $4.95 million.
All of the spending is reviewed by a federal judge.