An East Cleveland police vehicle is parked in front of East Cleveland City Hall on Monday, March 20, 2023.
An East Cleveland police vehicle is parked in front of East Cleveland City Hall on Monday, March 20, 2023. Credit: Stephanie Casanova / Signal Cleveland

by Lydia Esparra

A meeting of East Cleveland City Council burst into a heated and wide-ranging argument between council members, residents and the mayor Tuesday night. 

The meeting was expected to address a video that shows Mayor Brandon King drinking and smoking on city property after hours. But things got so heated between council and residents that the mayor had no time to respond. 

The meeting first became charged regarding the status of $2 million in American Rescue Plan Funds originally meant to finance the Cleveland Metroparks’ proposed restoration of Forest Hill Park. 

Then, there was a heated conversation regarding a state personnel board of review investigation of King and East Cleveland’s human resource director on the hiring and firing of personnel. The atmosphere in the room then boiled over regarding whether or not King is the legitimate mayor of East Cleveland.

The mayor was not given the time to address many issues as council timed his rebuttal.

King did not address the issue of his drinking after hours on city property, however, the city attorney of East Cleveland provided an ordinance that was approved in 2002 allowing drinking on city property under certain circumstances.

Many residents expressed their concerns to 3News regarding the lack of professionalism and decorum in the current city council.

Last month, video surfaced appearing to show King drinking alcohol and smoking a cigar in the city’s garage. 

In a statement given to 3News, King said because of the workload of his job, he is entitled to enjoy a few moments with a drink and cigar. He notes that his job requires him to be at East Cleveland City Hall six or seven days a week. King also adds that he does tasks that “most mayors in Ohio don’t do,” including plumbing work at city hall, carpentry, painting, and more.

“So, if I want to wind down a 6- or 7-day work week by having a Guinness Stout (not beer) and smoking a cigar in the garage, after hours, with staff, residents and stake holders and discuss the disfunction of our legislative body or the revitalization opportunities that are before us or international politics, no policy or media outlet is going to stop me,” he wrote.

Critics of King say his actions are a violation of the city’s code of conduct in its employee handbook, which was last updated in 2005. East Cleveland City Council President Juanita Gowdy told 3News’ Neil Fischer that she believes drinking and smoking on the city property is “unacceptable.” Gowdy adds that King needs to be held accountable for his actions with a citation. 

East Cleveland, a suburb of fewer than 14,000 people, has been losing population for decades and has spent most of the last 35 years in a state of fiscal emergency. 

King, who took office after the 2016 recall of Mayor Gary Norton, survived a recall attempt himself last November by a mere 28 votes.

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