Cleveland’s use of a temporary staffing firm to carry out essential city work raised lots of questions during City Council’s 2023 budget hearings.

Administration officials told council members the city pays Snider-Blake Personnel, based in Independence, to hire workers to: clear and cut vacant lots, dig graves in a city cemetery, lifeguard at pools, patch potholes with asphalt, and tend a city-owned golf course. City officials said the firm was also used in some cases to work around the city’s slow hiring process. 

The question: How much city work does Cleveland farm out to a company that hires temporary or seasonal workers?

Council Member Brian Kazy wanted to know how the city came to rely on Snider-Blake. Kazy said he hadn’t heard about the city’s use of the staffing company before and asked Streets Commissioner Randall Scott about it.

Kazy asked: “Now they’re doing our golf courses, our cemeteries, now they’re doing our streets. What’s the relationship here?”

What we learned

Cleveland paid Snider-Blake more than $17 million to supply workers in recent years. 

City records show that nearly 30 city departments hired temporary workers using the company between January 2020 and Nov. 25, 2022. The highest amount paid out was by the department that maintains parks and city properties – more than $11.3 million over nearly two years. Snider-Blake was the main contractor, but the company told the city it also worked with several subcontractors, including women- and minority-owned businesses, to screen and hire temporary city employees. 

More context

Cleveland’s Public Works Department, which includes maintenance and seasonal recreation staff, employed between 35 and 394 temporary workers a month in 2022. The highest number are employed in the summer months.

Outside of the Public Works Department, Cleveland used Snider-Blake in 2022 to employ about 25 temporary workers each month, a city spokesperson said. The workers included call takers for the health department and staff for the Office of Professional Standards, which handles complaints against police officers. 

City officials told council members that temporary “unskilled” work can be a bridge to a city job. Once people are doing jobs, “we start investing in them, we start investing in some training, and they start to learn about crafts that exist, opportunities that exist,” Streets Commissioner Scott said. The city then graduates workers from day labor to seasonal work, he said, and then from there into full-time employment. “So it’s really the beginning of a career path.” 

 

Community and Special Projects Editor (she/her)
Rachel leads our special projects work on topics that demand deeper coverage, and works with Cleveland Documenters and Signal staff to report those stories for wider understanding and accountability. She is our liaison with the Marshall Project in Cleveland where she focuses on including residents' voices in criminal justice reporting. Rachel has reported in Cleveland for more than two decades on stories that have changed laws, policies, hearts and minds. She was part of the team that helped launch Cleveland Documenters in 2020, and she was a John S. Knight Community Impact Fellow in 2021. Dissell is a two-time winner of the Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma for narrative stories about teen dating violence and systemic failures with rape investigations.

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