CLEVELAND (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found tens of thousands of dollars spent on a special “team-building” get together for top managers at Cleveland City Hall.
So, we took a closer look with taxpayers wondering when their streets will get fixed, when more police will get hired and when more ambulances will start rolling on the streets.
The I-Team found city hall spent $30,000 for a two-day retreat for the mayor’s cabinet.
The cabinet members met at a place called the Skylight Penthouse in Ohio City.
Records show the city spent $3,000 renting a room for two days, $6000 for food for 18 people and $21,000 for a consulting firm to come in and lead the sessions.
We showed the receipts to Fay Harris, a Cleveland government watchdog who has spoken out before about city spending.
“I think it’s going too far. Maybe they think they have unlimited money that they can spend on these things,” Harris said. “That just reminds me of it’s nothing but a party, a get-together party.”
Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer said, “I’m hoping everyone’s thinking about our contract when they’re doing those meetings.”
Cleveland police officers rank among the lowest paid in the state, and the union is involved now in contract negotiations.
Follmer added, “There has to be money for our contract. Has to be money for our contract, right now.”
Of course, we put in a request to talk to the mayor. But, you should know the I-Team first requested these documents more than a month ago and as we waited, we sent more than a dozen e-mails to the mayor’s office asking about this. We never got a response with the information.
The law department finally released these records after we made a special appeal due to the time that had passed for our request.
“What kind of message does that send to our residents who can’t afford gas right now?” Councilman Brian Kazy asked. “It’s the look. It’s the optics of it, right? $30,000 to have a two-day vacation on how to run the city.”
The mayor’s office released a statement saying:
“Professional development and training of a leadership team is a best practice in change management. The administration took office on January 3rd with various levels of experience and expertise, but a common goal of serving the citizens of Cleveland to the best of our ability. This talented group of individuals had not worked together previously.
“We chose a facilitator with experience leading retreats for teams similar to ours in peer cities. They also have a unique certification to administer the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) tool. Our team is receiving ongoing support and training from the tool.
“The value our team received from the retreat is worth the investment. We need to be thoughtful in our approach to transformational change. These two days represent the mayor’s commitment to provide the tools and expertise to keep us moving forward in a positive direction. It would be a disservice to our residents to not take the time to plan and strategize at the leadership level for the good of our community.”
Back to the view from the taxpayer, Fay Harris says do your team-building, but don’t spend top-dollar.
She said, “It could be held at a rec center, any one of the rec centers. Keep the cost down.”
So, how did the city spend thousands just on food over two days? We had asked for an itemized list showing the cost of everything the city paid for, but we only received totals.