East Cleveland City Council Approves $20,000 Contract to Videotape Meetings

East Cleveland's flag flies outside city hall.
East Cleveland's flag flies outside city hall. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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by Nick Castele

State finance officials say they won’t allow cash-strapped East Cleveland to spend $20,000 to videotape and broadcast city council meetings.

The suburb’s council last week approved a measure awarding a contract to Legacy Communications LLC, a video company based in East Cleveland.

The company has recorded council meetings in the past. State records show East Cleveland already owes Legacy around $40,000 for bills incurred in 2014.

Council President Thomas Wheeler, one of the measure’s sponsors, said Legacy will forgive the city’s debts now that a new contract has been approved.

Wheeler said the contract isn’t too steep a price to pay to keep residents informed.

“That we’ve been lacking. So they don’t know what’s going on with the finances, or with the auditor and the books,” Wheeler said in a phone interview. “So this way they bring it back into their homes. So the older residents, or the handicapped and disabled, can still find out what’s going on in their community.”

Wheeler said there’s a revenue source for this: money received each year from the cable company for the ability to operate in the city. That cost is added to cable bills in what’s known as a franchise fee.

State officials said the city’s needs would take priority over this contract.

“The Auditor of State’s office has not received any bills for a photographer to review at this point, and we will not approve them if and when we receive them,” said Dominic Binkley, a spokesman for the state auditor.

Sharon Hanrahan, who heads the state panel overseeing East Cleveland’s finances, said all city revenues are going toward employee payroll, pensions and medical claims.

The new contract with Legacy, Hanrahan said, would be added to list of unpaid bills and court judgments that total about $3.4 million—equivalent to around one third of the city’s general fund.

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton called Legacy an “excellent video services provider,” but said he would not put his signature to the measure approving the contract.

“It’s a piece of legislation that I can’t sign,” Norton said.

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