Mayor on questionable spending: We don't know what you got for your money, but was 'well worth it'

Posted at 10:35 AM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-15 18:19:34-04

Earlier this year, a 5 On Your Side Investigation uncovered highly questionable spending by the city of Cleveland. Two high-ranking city leaders went to a conference in Houston, spent thousands of taxpayers’ money and we found maybe they didn't have to take that trip in the first place.

After we asked for answers for months, now Mayor Frank Jackson talked to us about that trip and it was a heated exchange.

RELATED'Shocked and disappointed': Council members react to questionable roads convention

"I haven't really gotten a clear response as to what we got for our money,” we told Mayor Jackson during a recent sit-down news conference.

“We meaning?” the mayor asked.

“The city of Cleveland,” we responded.

We were asking about that trip that Public Works Director Michael Cox and Assistant Director Randy Scott made for an asphalt conference.

Here's one of the mayor's answers. "Well, I don't know what you got for your money, (to) be honest with you.”

Our reporting showed the trip cost taxpayers more than $6,000. Director Cox even made a promise to council about what he would be learning.

“So, will you be bringing that back so we can take a look at it?," questioned Councilman Basheer Jones during a council meeting.

“We will bring back what we believe what is a better practice than what we do,” replied Director Cox at the time.

Meanwhile, during our most recent sit-down news conference with the mayor he told us this about Cox and Scott’s Houston trip. “You know what? I think they did a great job.”

A great job. This is a great time to point out they probably didn't have to spend thousands because just a month before the Houston trip there was a similar national pavement conference right here in Cleveland. Dozens of the same vendors were in Cleveland as Houston. However, the mayor's office said no one from the city even went to the downtown event.

That’s despite Cleveland City Hall being located right across the street from where the pavement expo was held.

Hotels during their trip to Houston cost taxpayers $443 per person per night.

“You could have found the same hotels for as low as a hundred and 44 bucks,” we told the mayor referring to our research in the initial 5 On Your Side Investigation.

“Well...,” said Mayor Jackson.

“Do you not care about that?” we asked.

“You know...huh...huh....,” said the mayor.

“The statement (we) got was that Director Cox and Assistant Director Scott did everything in accordance with city policy,” we told the mayor.

“That's correct,” he responded.

“Is it city policy to waste taxpayers’ money in this regard?” we posed to the mayor.

“Well, that's why I went straight to the people (during the State of the City Address) because that's an interpretation,” Mayor Jackson claimed.

“Interpretation?” we asked. “They could have saved thousands of dollars.”

“They could have,” said the mayor.

To be clear, we don't think anyone has a problem with city leaders going to conferences, getting new ideas, and implementing them.

But bottom line, the mayor said he doesn't mind spending thousands to skip a local convention and, as we reported, allowing Randy Scott to dine on filet Mignon and lobster.

"I think whatever they did was well worth it,” said Mayor Jackson.

Find more investigations in our "Broken Roads, Broken System" series here.

If you have any comments questions or concerns about the city of Cleveland, the Mayor's Action Line is 216-664-2900 or click here to submit your thoughts online.