Cleveland Plain Dealer: Beachwood's finances are now available for viewing on OhioCheckbook.com
Cleveland Plain Dealer
By Jeff Piorkowski
March 21, 2017
BEACHWOOD, Ohio -- The city became, on Monday, the sixth in Cuyahoga County to post its finances on the state's OhioCheckbook.com website.
It was in September, 2016, that Beachwood City Council voted by a 5-1 count, with Councilman Melvin Jacobs opposing, to approve legislation to put Beachwood's finances on the public site.
Mayor Merle Gorden said at Monday's council meeting that it took a while for the posting of figures to take place because the city was without a finance director when the legislation passed.
The city recently welcomed Larry Heiser as its new finance director.
"I believe the people of Cuyahoga County have a right to know how their tax money is being spent, and I applaud local leaders here for partnering with my office to post the finances on OhioCheckbook.com," said State Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Beachwood resident, in a release. "By posting local government spending online, we are empowering taxpayers across Ohio to hold public officials accountable."
Some Beachwood council members ran for office on a platform of transparency, including Councilman Brian Linick. In September, Linick said of Beachwood's participation in the program, "If it was up to me, Beachwood would have been first on the list."
Linick is quoted in the Mandel release as stating, "I am proud to see Beachwood joining this statewide transparency movement. As the council member who introduced this resolution, I'm pleased to see the progress we've made."
Mandel introduced OhioCheckbook.com in December, 2014. The site puts all state spending information on the internet.
Eric Synenberg, who was present at Monday's council meeting as the representative of Mandel's office, said Beachwood is the 82nd Ohio city to participate in OhioCheckbook.com, and the 637th government entity to take part.
"We have a way to go as we have 3,900 entities in Ohio," said Synenberg, also a Beachwood resident.
Beachwood's online checkbook includes more than 50,000 individual transactions that represent greater than $210 million of total spending over the past five years.
"I'm happy to join other local governments in Cuyahoga County and across the state that have joined OhioCheckbook.com," Gorden stated. "Our residents deserve an open and transparent government, and OhioCheckbook.com helps facilitate that."
Beachwood has also linked to OhioCheckbook.com on its website.
Synenberg said he spoke Monday with South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo and that that city is expected to join soon, as is Shaker Heights.
In other Beachwood news:
-- Resident David Keilin was sworn in at the council meeting as the newest member of the city's Civil Service Commission.
-- Council voted by a 6-1 margin, with Linick opposing, an ordinance that will have it join other municipalities in a lawsuit to challenge Ohio Senate Bill 331. The bill, introduced in May, 2016, originally overruled city laws that specified where pet stores could purchase puppies.
By December, when Gov. John Kasich signed it into law, it had become an omnibus bill that included an amendment that gave utility companies full reign as to the installation of "small-cell wireless" nodes to structures in city-owned right-of-ways, including street signs and traffic lights.
When there are no such structures available for small-cell placement, the bill allows companies to install a tower to serve as infrastructure without gaining city permission.
The bill is scheduled to go into effect Tuesday, March 21.
Beachwood Law Director Hope Jones recommended that council pass the legislation, which would lead to spending no more than $3,000 with the law firm of Walter Haverfield, which will represent the city.
Jones said the bill seeks to take more home-rule authority from cities.
"In my 27 years of municipal law," she said, "I keep seeing legislation that takes bits and pieces out of local authority."
Gorden agreed that the city should join in on the lawsuit.
Linick said of his opposition to the ordinance, "I don't see the value of joining in. It's $3,000 we would be throwing away."