CH narrows council search to 4 finalists
On May 21, in a Facebook post, Cleveland Heights Mayor Jason Stein announced that he and the other five current members of CH City Council had narrowed the field of applicants for the open council seat to four finalists, out of 22 who applied. The finalists are Craig Cobb, Anthony Cuda, Anthony Mattox Jr. and Robert Koonce.
The next step, according to Stein, is to individually, and remotely, interview the four candidates. In his Facebook post, Stein stated that next step, to take place "in the next week or so," would be an executive session (closed to the public) interview with council. After that, stated Stein, "[W]e will make a final determination and then plan for the swearing-in ceremony."
Of the 22 applicants, three withdrew; the other 19 each participated in a video interview process, conducted by the League of Women Voters. Those videos, as well as each candidate's application, can be viewed at www.clevelandheights.com/1144/City-Council-Applicants.
At the May 18 CH City Council Committee of the Whole meeting, held remotely, the council vacancy was item two on the agenda.
Council resumed where it had left off, with a continuation of a discussion on whether to conduct a background check on applicants and, if so, what parameters to include and how to carry out the check—using city staff or a third-party firm. After lengthy discussion, council opted to limit the background check to an applicant’s real estate taxes, voter registration status, and income taxes.
Afterward, council moved to executive session, with the intention of selecting the finalists.
Before moving to executive session on May 18, Stein remined council that, under the city's charter, no choice has to be made—i.e., council is not required to choose someone.
The council seat has been vacant since March 2, when former council member Melissa Yasinow resigned, effective immediately, at that evening’s council meeting.
On March 10, city council announced that it had posted the application on the city’s website, with a March 23 deadline. In the posting, the city provided no specific timeline for selecting a new council member.
A March 20 CH council update, found in the March 23 CH City Council meeting packet [note: all March 22–28 city of Cleveland Heights meetings were cancelled], included the notice that the application deadline for the vacant city council seat had been extended by two weeks. The new deadline was April 6, at 5 p.m.
Asked how the deadline extension came about, at a time when council members, like others, are engaged in social distancing, CH Mayor Jason Stein explained, "I reached out by phone to individual council members (between March 18 and 20) to solicit their support for the extension. Considering the unprecedented COVID-19 situation, I felt it was appropriate and necessary to extend the application deadline by an additional two weeks. Residents are busy adjusting to the new reality, and should be focused on their family health and well-being. Potential applicants now have the opportunity to focus some time and energy toward considering the vacancy and submitting the application online."
Yasinow was elected to council in November 2013, and took her initial oath of office in Jan. 2014. She was reelected to council in November 2017. The current term for her seat is due to expire on Dec. 31, 2021.
Kim Sergio Inglis
Kim Sergio Inglis is editor-in-chief of the Heights Observer, and is a Cuyahoga County master gardener volunteer.