EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — The deep divide on East Cleveland city council is now threatening the paychecks of city employees.
The mayor wanted to pass a 2023 budget today that he said would move the city forward, but fewer than half of the members of council showed up.
Mayor Brandon L. King told News 5 Investigators city employees will get paid today, but there’s a concern about whether paychecks go out two weeks from now.
The bitter back and forth at city hall in East Cleveland is at a major crossroads.
If there’s no budget, there’s no spending, and for city employees, there are no paychecks.
"So people will get paid today, however moving forward is what we're most concerned about,” King said.
King called a special meeting mid-Friday, he said, to pass roughly $12 million in permanent appropriations, but couldn’t get a quorum.
"The possibility of the government shutting down is a real possibility,” King said.
The mayor shared with News 5 Investigators an email he received Friday morning from the Chief Deputy Auditor of Ohio, saying the city needs to determine how to manage this situation and get appropriations passed.
King said the administration submitted a budget to the council last Thursday. But again, more than half the members didn’t show up. It comes as council members are bitterly divided over who has the authority to fill an empty council seat.
“If you had to work this week, wouldn't you be concerned about not having your money at the end of the day?” Jordan Pittman said.
Pittman has called East Cleveland home for 38 years now.
He’s hoping somehow the council and administration will find common ground.
"It's just frustrating. It makes a mockery when we have to look and see people from the outside looking in; it makes us all look bad,” Pittman said.
Counselor-At-Large Patricia Blochowiak believes the mayor’s budget is too bloated and wants cuts.
"He's not being clear as to what he's spending money on and he's not willing to cut back on things that can be cut back on,” Blochowiak said.
Blochowiak says they’re prepared to pass a budget in the format the administration wants, but the city isn’t being transparent.
“If we want to pass things, we need to have the meeting, we need to have the finance director present, and we need to have the finance director answer the questions we ask,” Blochowiak said.
“The expenditures that we make directly impact the quality of life here for the residents and business owners of this city. It is my anticipation — my want — [for] my administration to continue to provide those services,” King said.
So, what is the contingency plan if the city divide lingers?
"We've been circling around legal channels to find out what actions we can take as the administrative branch to continue to operate the city,” King said.
Several council members called a meeting for Friday night to discuss millions in budget cuts. The mayor says he plans to be there.
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