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Cuyahoga County Council Weighs Making It Harder for Executive to Fire Sheriff

Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 4:26 PM

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A proposed change to Cuyahoga County government would make it harder for the executive to fire the sheriff. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports Cuyahoga County Council gave the issue a short hearing today, but didn’t make any final decisions.

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Former sheriff Bob Reid, right, ran unsuccessfully for county executive this year after being asked to resign in 2013. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald talks with county council at an unrelated 2014 meeting.

It used to be that voters elected the sheriff to four-year terms. But after broad reforms to county government several years ago, the sheriff is now appointed by the executive—and can be fired by the executive at will.

And last year, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald did just that, replacing Sheriff Bob Reid with Frank Bova.

Some council members want to curb that power. Under the proposal by Republican Councilman Dave Greenspan, the executive would need the OK from eight out of 11 council members before firing the sheriff.

Council President C. Ellen Connally, a Democrat, said this would make it easier for the sheriff—hypothetically—to investigate the executive’s office, if need be.

“That person should be independent be able to make decisions without having to live in fear that he’s walked into an office one day and said, ‘Hey you’re gone,’” Connally said.

A number of other council members agreed this was a good change to county government, though not all spoke up at the meeting.

And there was some opposition. Councilman Dale Miller, also a Democrat, said this makes one of the most powerful figures in local government less accountable.

“If we set up this structure the way it’s proposed, the sheriff doesn’t really have to answer to the executive,” Miller said

Plus, he says, future executives might have to work alongside sheriffs they had tried—and failed—to fire.

County Executive Ed FitzGerald opposes this change, according to a spokesman.

The proposal would also bring back four-year terms for sheriffs, but would stagger them with those of the executive. The job would remain an appointed position.

This is a charter amendment, which means approval by eight council members would put it on the ballot, and voters would have the final say.

This story has been updated to clarify that the sheriff is now appointed by the executive.

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Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement, Government/Politics

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