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Fired Cuyahoga County Budget Director Questioned IT Spending

Cuyahoga County Budget Director Maggie Keenan addresses county council in November this year. [Cuyahoga County Council]
Cuyahoga County Budget Director Maggie Keenan addresses county council in November this year.

Just one day after Cuyahoga County Council passed a new two-year budget, County Executive Armond Budish’s administration fired budget director Maggie Keenan, offering little explanation for the move.

“We have decided to go in a different direction,” Chief of Staff Bill Mason said in a short emailed statement. “We thank Ms. Keenan for her service.”

While overseeing the county’s $1.5 billion in annual spending, Keenan often strongly challenged other county officials to justify their projects and requests for money, according to documents and interviews with two former county officials.

Keenan told Cleveland.com on Wednesday that she planned to “sue the sh-t” out of the county and “knows where all of the bodies are buried.” In an email to ideastream Thursday, she wrote that her attorneys had advised her not to comment.

Last year, Keenan clashed with county IT staff working on the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) project, the slow-moving, $25 million effort to link county computer systems.

According to an April 2018 human resources memo included in Keenan’s personnel file, IT staff accused the budget director of questioning their competence, using profanity and engaging in “loud, confrontational and accusatory behavior.” HR could not corroborate the accusation of profanity, according to the memo. 

In a 2018 email, also in her personnel file, Keenan acknowledged criticizing IT leadership, saying she believed the ERP project had been poorly managed. 

“I recognize that to some I am considered to be too critical and not accommodating,” Keenan wrote to HR, “but as I previously mentioned I have a responsibility—both professionally and personally—to act in accordance with the law and to make what I feel are the best decisions for OBM, the Fiscal Office, and this County. And I believe I have done that.”

Keenan outlined her own complaints about the county administration in a June 2019 court filing seeking to quash subpoenas from attorneys for indicted former IT general counsel Emily McNeeley.

In the court filing, Keenan wrote that she brought concerns to Budish about possible illegal or unethical activity, but “failed to receive a satisfactory response.”

Keenan then contacted Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley, she wrote. Representatives from O’Malley’s office, the FBI and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office questioned her “repeatedly,” according to her court filing.

At the suggestion of investigators, Keenan wrote, she began using a personal email address after she believed IT had compromised her county email.

“Early in the investigation of the defendant, Emily McNeeley, I communicated to investigators that I believed employees in the Cuyahoga County Department of Information Technology were accessing, reading, and deleting my County email,” Keenan wrote.

The ERP and contracts related to the project are part of a wide-ranging investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s office into Cuyahoga County government.

The county has not yet provided ideastream with a response to Keenan’s June 2019 court filing.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.