Beachwood City Council will consult in executive session with special counsel regarding a personnel matter Oct. 4, and that committee of the whole meeting will not include the mayor.
BakerHostetler and attorney Carole S. Rendon were hired as special counsel for the city at a special council meeting Aug. 22 in what was declared as an “urgent matter.” Rendon is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. The city is compensating the firm in an amount not to exceed $30,000.
“I’m not invited to that meeting,” Mayor Martin S. Horwitz told the Cleveland Jewish News. “My name is not on the list. I didn’t call it. You would have to talk to council. I’m advised of a meeting, but there’s nothing I can tell you about the meeting because it’s a council meeting called for … a matter of personnel and it’s executive session.”
Council President Brian Linick told the CJN, “It’s not typical that the mayor is not at our meeting.”
Council members told the CJN they were not authorized to speak and referred all comment to Linick, who said he “can’t speak to the specifics of this incident.”
“There are always times that we, for specialized matters, use outside counsel even though we have an in-house legal department,” he said.
Linick said he did not know whether the outcome of the meeting would be made public.
When asked if special counsel is looking for anything specific, Linick said, “I don’t know they are looking for anything. They were engaged as special counsel to handle a matter for the city and that’s all the information I can share.”
Linick said information learned in executive session often remains confidential.
“Generally speaking, whatever takes place in executive session would not be public, so it wouldn’t be public to any kind of records request or anyone involved shouldn’t be discussing anything that takes place in executive session,” he said.
“As a general standpoint as the way I operate and the way we operate as a city, our methodology is that everything we do should be public unless there is a law or legal reason that it cannot be. So, in every opportunity we have with everything I’m involved with, it is always err on the side of transparency and public, making things public. So, there is not a calculation made to try to keep something from the public. That’s how I operate with everything.”
Council typically meets on Mondays and neither the Aug. 22 meeting nor the Oct. 4 meeting falls on a Monday.
At the Aug. 22 meeting, Linick introduced a motion, which was seconded by Councilman Alec Isaacson, that Ordinance No. 2019-95 to retain outside counsel be adopted. The vote was 7-0 and the ordinance was presented the next day to the mayor for his signature. He did not sign the ordinance and by city charter, the ordinance took effect seven days after passage as though the mayor had signed it.
One councilperson told the CJN, “I’m hopeful outside counsel at the end of the day doesn’t find anything wrong. At the end of the day, we don’t need a black eye. … I’ve heard people on the outside (of) council have heard more than they should have at this point.
“This is something that should be kept confidential and I don’t want it to hurt the city first or foremost the parties involved in this, either. So, I’m disappointed. … Hopefully, at the end of the day there’s nothing to it.”
Multiple attempts to reach Rendon were unsuccessful.
When contacted by the CJN, Beachwood Law Director Diane A. Calta said she could not comment on this matter.