Friday, January 3, 2014

Scowling Sweeney strikes again

Like a glowering gnome, his eyes smoldering with hate for his enemies, Martin Sweeney lurks on the Plain Dealer's front page today. The paper looks gleeful at a chance to kick the hapless ex-city council president one last time.

Sweeney has ended his presidency with a final indulgence, and the file photo makes him look furious to be caught out.

Totally unsurprisingly, Sweeney retired for a few days to collect his pension -- the same cheesy double-dip he allowed Ken Johnson to pull last year. Then he rejoins council on Monday for another four years.

There ought to be a law against elected officials' week-long fake retirements, but there isn't. Double-dipping drains government pension systems of cash and credibility (take a look at Detroit to see how that ends). Yet Cleveland councilpeople have just made double-dipping even more a part of their insular culture, restoring double-dippers' ceremonial seniority honors. They meant to come back, council explains. Everyone knows their retirements are fake.

I still can't figure out how Sweeney lasted eight years as council president. He survived a sexual harassment allegation. He dodged multiple ethical questions arising from his friendships with Cuyahoga County corruption scandal figures. He never turned over those receipts for the work that Michael Forlani's company did on his house. He never explained the relationship between Forlani's fundraising for his council leadership fund and the contractor's wiretapped boast that he could count on 14 votes from the council majority.

Last year, Sweeney's ruthless gerrymandering backfired. His old majority too slim for comfort after the November election, he delivered a score-settling farewell and handed off the presidency.

"Let's move on," says Kevin J. Kelley, the council president-elect, "and deal with the vacant housing problem [and] the gun violence epidemic." Sounds good.

Update, 3 pm: Speaking of Kelley, he scolded council members at a retreat today to show up for meetings and pay attention. But many councilpeople weren't there to hear it -- they skipped the optional meeting. says only 9 of the 17 council members came, though Joe Cimperman is also tweeting from it, so let's say 10.

Kelley said committee chairpersons and vice-chairs often ignore the mayor's cabinet members when they testify. “One of my personal pet peeves is when the chair is off talking to someone else or checking email, while the director is addressing the group and looking around for someone to make eye contact with,” he said.  No kidding!

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