Three-way Cleveland Clerk of Courts race

Longtime Cleveland Clerk of Courts Earle B. Turner pops up in Cleveland's 2022 Labor Day parade. He faces two opponents in November's election. (Credit: Mark Naymik / Signal Cleveland)
Longtime Cleveland Clerk of Courts Earle B. Turner pops up in Cleveland’s 2022 Labor Day parade. He faces two opponents in November’s election. (Credit: Mark Naymik / Signal Cleveland) Credit: Mark Naymik/Signal Cleveland

Longtime Cleveland Municipal Court Clerk Earle B. Turner has two challengers in this year’s November election as he seeks re-election for the millionth time. (He’s been clerk since 1996.) 

Cleveland City Council Member Brian Kazy and former Cleveland City Council President Martin J. Sweeney, who is currently a Cuyahoga Council member, also met the filing deadline ensuring them a spot on the ballot. (Though there are three people in the race, there is no primary in the city’s clerk of court race.)

There are a couple of subplots worth noting in this race. Kazy was appointed to his council seat in 2015 after Sweeney went to the Ohio House. The other is the ever-present conspiracy theory in Democratic circles that one candidate in three-way races is a straw candidate secretly working with the incumbent to thin the anti-incumbent vote. 

Sweeney is the last to get in. He told Signal Cleveland he is in because Turner has been in office too long and has shown little ambition to improve the system for people interacting with the clerk’s office. 

“Complacency is never good,” he said.

Crisis coms at City Hall

Mayor Justin Bibb is a great communicator by many measures, especially when compared to his predecessor, Frank Jackson. Bibb views part of his job to be chief salesman for the city, as Signal Cleveland Reporter Nick Castele illustrates in this profile. Bibb generally handles pesky reporters smoothly, in part by limiting his time before them. So it should be no surprise that he wants his press office to be equally adept at promoting the city and combating media criticisms. At least that’s what a paper trail at City Hall is suggesting. 

City Hall hired well-known crisis public relations firm Hennes Communications to provide a one-day media training in April to the press office, according to an invoice obtained through a public records request. The invoice doesn’t offer any detail about the training beyond the $5,000 price tag. 

Signal Cleveland is still waiting for a response about whether there are other invoices. 

But with or without crisis training, mayors are always on trial in the court of public opinion.

County reunion

Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne has tapped his former trusted colleague Debbie Berry to head development for the county. Berry, who just resigned as the senior vice president for real estate for the Greater Cleveland Partnership business group, worked for Ronayne when he led the development nonprofit University Circle Inc.

While Berry carries a sterling reputation, the move could pose potential conflicts because Berry is also a board member of the Cleveland Metroparks, which has forged a strong relationship with the county in recent years on waterfront and other development projects. The county also gives money to the park system. (Last year, Cuyahoga County Council approved $2 million in federal stimulus money for the Metroparks zoo.)

Perhaps complicating matters a bit more is the fact that the county executive’s wife, Natalie Ronayne, is the Metroparks’ chief development officer. The Metroparks administration operates at the board’s direction.  

Signal Cleveland asked the county executive’s office if Berry’s board position poses any possible conflicts and how those would be handled. The office has not responded yet. 

Asked if it sees any potential conflicts, the Metroparks responded, “The Cleveland Metroparks has no comment at this time.”

Labor group to fight Issue 1

The North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, Northeast Ohio’s largest labor organization, is campaigning against Issue 1, the new head of the organization told Signal Cleveland.

Leonard DiCosimo said the mobilization strategy includes reaching members in the workplace, hosting public events and conducting voter registration drives. Some will be federation activities, others will be sponsored by the 150 local unions that make up the organization. Issue 1 is on the ballot August 8. July 10 is the deadline to register for the election.

Issue 1 would require a 60% majority of voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution. Ohio currently only requires a simple majority, or 50% plus 1. A yes vote supports amending the constitution to require a 60% majority. A no vote would keep the simple majority for passage, which means at least 50.01% of the vote. 

“This is not honest democracy,” DiCosimo said of the ballot measure. “This is not fair democracy. This is ham-fisted muscle, and we have to stand up against it.”

DiCosimo said the federation will be “passing out literature and answering questions” during the Juneteenth event on Sunday, June 18, given by the Cleveland Federation of Musicians Local 4, which is part of the American Federation of Musicians.

The federation will also pass out campaign literature and answer questions at SEIU 1199’s Vote No on Issue 1 Rally.  The rally will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 22, at the union’s headquarters at 13000 Shaker Boulevard in Cleveland.

DiCosimo became the federation’s head – the official title is executive secretary – in April. He succeeds Dan O’Malley. The executive board removed O’Malley in April for using the organization’s credit card for personal expenses and then bouncing checks intended to reimburse the local AFL-CIO chapter.

O’Malley initially said he would appeal his removal. DiCosimo said the board received a letter from O’Malley June 11 withdrawing his appeal. The board voted to accept the withdrawal at a June 14 meeting.

“We consider the matter closed and will continue with the good work for which our central labor council is known,” the board said in a statement.

The board appointed DiCosimo to serve through the end of the year. He got permission from his union to continue to also serve as the head of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians.

The executive secretary is elected to a four-year term. O’Malley’s term was to have ended Dec. 31, 2024. The board will conduct a special election at the end of this year to fill his unexpired term. DiCosimo said he hasn’t decided whether he will run in December. He said he wants to focus on running the organization.

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Managing Editor, News (he/him)
Mark is a veteran journalist with experience in alternative media, print, digital and television news. For 19 years, he was a groundbreaking reporter and metro columnist with The Plain Dealer and Most recently, Mark spent three years as an investigative, enterprise and breaking news reporter at WKYC-TV, where his "Leading the Land" series on Cleveland's 2021 mayoral primary race earned a regional Emmy.

Economics Reporter (she/her)
Olivera, an award-winning journalist, covered labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer. She broke the story in 2013 of a food drive held for Walmart workers who made too little to afford Thanksgiving dinner. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Olivera believes the sweet spot of high-impact journalism is combining strong storytelling with data analysis.