To the Editor:
In January we accidentally drove our car through a pothole in Severance Circle. Two tires were damaged. I called two council members to make them aware of the need for repair. The second council member acted swiftly; the hole was patched.
The community safety issue addressed, I then submitted paperwork to the city seeking reimbursement for tire replacement. I waited two months for my claim to be processed. On March 29, I received a letter from the assistant law director that stated that “their investigation was complete, and they are not liable for the damages.” First, he said Cleveland Heights was not responsible for damages because of jurisdiction (that it was Cleveland Water’s responsibility); then he said it was because Ohio Code 2744 states that “if the city is not aware of a pothole, they are not responsible for any damages incurred.”
When I researched the code directly, I found that Ohio Code 2744.02 Section 3 states “Political subdivisions are liable for injury, death, or loss to person or property caused by their negligent failure to keep public roads in repair and other negligent failure to remove obstructions from public roads, except that it is a full defense to that liability, when a bridge within a municipal corporation is involved.”
When I called the law director to discuss this, he told me he did not have time for my call and had “more important things to do.”
I subsequently called the city manager, who repeated the jurisdiction explanation, directing me to Cleveland Water and the city of Cleveland. Both entities have clarified that this location is not their jurisdiction; Cleveland Water even provided evidence. When I reached out to a third council member, there was no response.
Potholes and car damage is an issue that I’m sure many residents are facing as we drive the streets of Cleveland Heights. Likewise, I suspect that many residents also face a disappointing rate of confusion and frustration in dealing with our municipal government.