CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has uncovered an email asking for money to help in the push to fix up the West Side Market.
But, the donations go to the Mayor of Cleveland.
We followed the trail for the money, then we started asking questions.
The email went out last weekend. It says you can donate money to go toward helping the West Side Market.
But, click on the “donate” button and you end up on a page that says “your contribution will benefit Justin Bibb.”
The mayor’s email also says, “I’m committed to saving the market. Chip in $5 right now if you’re with me,” and, “Can you help me make sure the city takes responsibility for its property by chipping in anything you can?”
We showed the email to vendors running food stands and customers. They reacted to the mayor using the market to raise money for himself.
“Oh my God. It’s criminal,” one customer said.
Diane Dever also reacted as she was busy running the Irene Dever Dairy stand.
“He’s using people’s hearts who love the market to give him money, and that’s where its not right. That’s all I’m going to say. It’s just not right,” she said.
We checked the address for the sender of that email. It refers to a website, and when we went there, we found a campaign site for the mayor.
So, we sent messages asking for comment, reaching out to that campaign address and the mayor’s office at city hall.
Thursday afternoon, we caught up with the mayor at an event.
“Why are you using the West Side Market to raise money for your campaign?” the I-Team asked.
“Well, you know, I have thousands of supporters in the City of Cleveland. We send emails, updates on the progress at the West Side Market. Simple as that,” Mayor Bibb responded.
So, we followed up with, “A lot of people see that as misleading, that they’re thinking they’re contributing to the market, but it’s actually going to your campaign.”
“Like I said before, we’re giving folks on our campaign team an update on how we’re doing at the West Side Market, like I do monthly, and that’s all that was,” Bibb said.
He answered two questions, but he made no mention of the money.
As he turned away, the I-Team said, “That’s not an update. That’s a request for money.”
The head of a tenants group at the market said he understands how people could be confused.
“A couple people reached out to us on Facebook.” said Don Whitaker with DW Whitaker Meats.
Yet, Whitaker also said he’s OK with the fundraising since Mayor Bibb has been pushing for big improvements at the market.
“I don’t think he’s trying to fund his campaign off the market. I know he’s passionate about fixing the market,” he said.
In fact, the mayor has proposed using $15 million in federal money to improve the West Side Market. City council will ultimately have to take that up and approve it.
We never heard anything back from the people tied to the campaign website.