Cleveland: Protest held over 'double-dipping' council member

12:44 PM, Jan 10, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- A protest Thursday morning was held outside Cleveland City Hall over a councilman who retired from council and then was appointed to his old ward seat.

Ohio Communities United staged the protest over the so-called double-dipping -- which is legal.

A handful of members paraded with signs in front of City Hall, saying "Shame on you, city council" and requesting an apology from council members for their decision.

The group acknowledges that while the double-dipping is legal, leader Mariah Crenshaw said, "that doesn't make it right."  The groups wants lawmakers to make changes to eliminate such practices.

Ward 4 Councilman Ken Johnson retired on Dec. 31 after 33 years as a councilman and 47 years as a City of Cleveland employee. He says he retired on New Year's Eve to ensure he received a guaranteed 3 percent cost-of-living yearly increase in his retirement paychecks.

Council has typically allowed members departing mid-term to pick their successor. In Johnson's case, he requested council appoint him to his old seat.

Council voted to approve the request Monday night. Three council members voted no -- Mike Polensek, Dona Brady and Brian Cummins. 

Johnson makes $74,000 as a councilman. He claimed not to know how much his retirement benefits are.

He says he plans to seek re-election in the fall.

Those council members supporting Johnson said last-minute changes by the state legislature to the pension plan forced Johnson's decision and is understandable.

On Monday, 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."


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