Cleveland: Council re-appoints 'double-dipping' colleague

6:55 PM, Jan 7, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- By a 14-3 vote, Cleveland City Council's caucus voted earlier Monday to reappoint Ward 4 Councilman Ken Johnson to the seat he vacated when he retired Dec. 31.

Council made this official at its Monday night meeting.

Johnson's been a councilmember 33 years and a city employee for 47 years. He retired New Year's eve to make sure he received a guaranteed 3 percent cost-of-living yearly increase in his retirement paychecks.

"Thank you for entertaining my request to rejoin you," he told members.

Council has traditionally allowed members departing in mid-term to pick their successor.

This is the first time a council member has asked to have themselves reappointed.

"This is certainly awkward," said council member Jay Westbrook, who voted to support Johnson's request.

Johnson said, "I don't think I'm gaming the system... This is not about money. It's about the finishing the work I started when voters elected me in 1980."

His council salary is $74,000. He claimed not to know how much his retirement benefits are.

Westbrook and Council President Marty Sweeney chose not to make the same decision.

Those voting "no" were council members Mike Polensek, Dona Brady and Brian Cummins. They argued that Johnson's request put council in a compromising position.

Those supporting Johnson said last-minute changes in the pension plan forced his decision and is understandable.

Sweeney said, "Ken Johnson could have retired 17 years ago...He is here because of the actions of the state legislature."

Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland said, "Many people are doing this. Many people have done it. Many people wish they could do it,"

Johnson, 65, said he will seek re-election this fall.

Kesha Parks has run unsuccessfully against Johnson once before. She intends to run against him again.

"I don't think it's fair he is asking his colleages to reappoint him," she said.

Johnson intended to have former Council President George Forbes administer the oath Monday night. But Forbes had to cancel because of a medical issue.

Those voting no at Monday night's meeting will be suspended from the Council Caucus. Council President Marty Sweeney invoked the "unit" rule with majority support.


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