CLE officials try to block RNC spending details

Posted at 11:00 PM, May 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-15 14:51:19-04

A top official in the office of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson attempted to block details concerning Cleveland's plan to oversee spending of $50 million in federal security funds for July's Republican National Convention.

Chief Media Spokesperson Dan Williams denied a request for both an interview and details of the city's oversight plan to ensure the $50 million is not misappropriated, wasted or used for fraudulent purposes.

In Cleveland, all requests for interviews of city officials must be approved by Williams.

An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation began digging into security funding and found tens of thousands of dollars in questionable spending by convention host cities four years ago.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General indicated his auditors will be "closely watching" how federal funds are spent in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Even so, Williams blocked an interview with Assistant Public Safety Director Ed Eckert who was designated as the administration's point person on security spending.

In an email, Williams wrote, "Thanks for reaching out....for now, we'll hold on this request."

Details on how the funds will be overseen is important, especially after finding an expensive SUV was purchased with security funds in Tampa four years ago where Justice Department auditors found it was being driven by the mayor.

Other spending on vehicles was found in Charlotte, as well as questionable overtime spending.

In an interview, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said, "Taxpayers have a right to know that the money was actually used for the purpose of the convention and not simply to add vehicles or pay personnel for other functions that the city performs every day."

Six days after Williams denied our request for an interview, we tracked down Assistant Public Safety Director Eckert at city hall who was more than happy to detail oversight plans.

In fact, Eckert revealed a detailed plan with layers of oversight.

"We are purchasing an inventory system that will allow us to tag this stuff," said Eckert. "From the time we order it, through the time we receive it, who it gets issued to, for what reasons and under what circumstances."

When we asked Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson about efforts by his top aide to block the interview, Jackson claimed that he "did not know why that would be--if he has made a decision there must be a reason."

But taxpayers never got one.