A photo of Commissioner Teri Wang as she motions to create a new committee to find and hire an attorney working outside the city’s Department of Law at the September 27, 2023 Cleveland Community Police Commission meeting.
Commissioner Teri Wang motions to create a new committee to find and hire an attorney working outside the city’s Department of Law. Credit: Cleveland Community Police Commission YouTube

Covered by Documenters Barbara Phipps (notes) and Gennifer Harding-Gosnell (tweets)

Seeking counsel

The Cleveland Community Police Commission created a new committee to find and hire an attorney to represent them in a dispute with Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration over the selection of an executive director.

Commissioner Teri Wang said that Mayor Justin Bibb’s decision to reject the commission’s nominee for executive director demonstrated a conflict of interest. When a conflict of interest arises, the law department is obligated by the city charter to pay for an independent or “outside” attorney for the commission, according to Wang. 

During the commission meeting, Wang made a motion to :

  • Establish that a conflict of interest with the mayor exists due to his decision to reject the commission’s nominee for executive director. 
  • Engage an outside lawyer at the city’s expense.
  • Create a committee to find and recommend an outside lawyer to the full commission. Wang, Commissioner Piet van Lier and Commissioner Kyle Earley would sit on the committee.

Other commissioners expressed concerns about Wang’s motion. Co-chair Jan Ridgeway warned that commissioners cannot self-establish or self-appoint to a committee. Commissioner Cait Kennedy said multiple groups of commissioners were interviewing potential attorney candidates–some for an attorney employed by and shared with the city and others for an outside attorney.

Commissioner Shandra Benito said she was under the impression that the ad hoc committee had already been created and was ready to recommend an outside lawyer, Mark Wallach, for the commission to hire. Wang confirmed this.

Wang’s motion passed by one vote.

Care response concerns

Public commenters expressed concerns about the lack of community involvement in creating a care response program. Care response is where a mental health expert and often a paramedic respond to emergency mental health crisis calls. Such a response does not involve police. 

Jennifer Blakeney with Showing Up for Racial Justice said that the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug, Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board’s current proposal does not incorporate best practices. She urged the commission to advocate that the community play a greater role in developing the new program. Community activist Rosie Palfy echoed these sentiments. She said the ADAMHS Board is working with the City of Cleveland to create a care response program without gathering any community input. Both asked the commissioners to seek a seat at the table in creating a care response program.

Youth engagement

Young people from the Saint Luke’s Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland, where the meeting was held, used the public comment period to let commissioners know how they could better engage with youth.

One club member said commissioners and officers should get to know people in the community to reduce the risk of violence. Another told commissioners that youth don’t often attend meetings like this one. He asked commissioners to do more to inform young people and engage with them. He suggested sending out flyers and emails.

Read more from Documenter Barbara Phipps:

Read the live-tweet thread from Documenter Gennifer Harding-Gosnell:

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