Cleveland Sues Itself To Push Through Stadium Scam
The proud American tradition of jumping through hoops to give billionaires free money goes on
The ongoing battle to determine if Cleveland will fork over $70 million to the Cleveland Cavaliers to put a nice spit polish on Quicken Loans Arena took a strange turn on Monday, with the city announcing that it plans to sue… itself.
On May 23, members of the Greater Cleveland Congregations, a coalition of nondenominational community activist organizations, along with a slew of unions and progressive groups, presented a petition containing more than 20,000 signatures to the City Council, which would trigger a public referendum to determine whether an admissions tax would be diverted to pay for the arena renovations. When the coalition arrived at City Hall with the petition in tow, the City Council president, Kevin Kelley, refused to accept it into the public record and later found himself subject to the wrath of a (rightly) angered public at a series of council meetings.
In response, lawyers representing the coalition filed a taxpayer demand letter stating that the City Council acted in violation of the state constitution by refusing to certify the petition. Not to get too deep into the weeds, but in order to ram the Q renovation through, it needed to be passed as an “emergency measure,” to avoid a vote being held. But the Cleveland Code of Ordinances stipulates that an emergency measure can only cover “immediate preservation of the public peace, property, health, or safety and providing for the refinancing of bonds, notes or other securities of the City,” which would seem to exclude paying to erect some glass walls for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. The City Council countered that the Q deal was simply an addendum to an “already executed and binding contract,” and therefore not subject to a public vote.
To settle this question once and for all, the case will now go before the Ohio Supreme Court, and in a fortuitous turn of events for those – like Kelley and Cleveland May Jackson – who want to see taxpayer dollars shunted into the Cavs’ coffers, the coalition has been shut out of the legal proceedings altogether.
In a press conference on Monday. it was announced that Cleveland’s law director had filed a writ of mandamus against the City Council’s clerk of council, demanding that the petition be certified. (In order to avoid the appearance that the city and the council is putting their fingers on the legal scales, both parties will seek outside council.)
While Mayor Frank Jackson promised that the city was merely following the demands laid out in the taxpayer demand letter, that’s not entirely accurate. The letter specifically requested that any legal proceedings include the coalition. Also, by taking the case directly to the state supreme court, the ruling will be final and not subject to any appeal. That’s a swell way to lock down the Q deal once and for all, even if, according to City Council President Kevin Kelley, the city was simply motivated by a desire to expedite the proceedings and not pursuing a way to rid itself of the coalition’s demands.
“By going to the supreme court in this manner, we will be able to resolve this, to give the people the resolution they deserve in the quickest way possible,” Kelley said at Monday’s press conference.
Subodh Chandra, one of the lawyers representing the coalition, pointed out how ridiculous and patently undemocratic this all seems. Via Cleveland Scene:
“I have been a litigator for more than two decades,” he said. “I thought I had seen everything. But I have never seen a party working to orchestrate a suit against himself, telling himself to do the right thing.”
Chandra said that by Kelley’s participation in the press conference, it was clear he was helping to coordinate the suit against Pat Britt (who can hardly be understood, according to Chandra, as an independent actor). As Clerk, Britt works for the Council President.
As for what’s next, Chandra promised his firm would be petitioning the Ohio Supreme Court to add the coalition as a defendant. And despite promises from Kelley that both parties would receive the finest legal representation possible, he isn’t buying it.
“Get ready for them to throw the case,” he said.