EAST CLEVELAND, OHIO LAW DIRECTOR APOLOGIZES FOR MISSING FIRE TRUCK FUNDS

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons took responsibility for the disappearance of nearly one million dollars set aside for a new fire truck Saturday in a statement.

RELATED: East Cleveland council blames mayor for allegedly misappropriating money meant for a new fire truck

Hemmons explained the funds were used to pay firefighters court ordered back pay after the city lost a lawsuit over the issue in 2021.

According to Hemmons’ statement, the city paid the firefighters $1.3 million in back pay last year and the remaining 300,000 will be paid in July.

Back in May, the East Cleveland City Council called on Mayor Brandon King for answers about nearly one million dollars missing from the city’s general fund that was supposed to be used for a new fire truck and ambulance.

19 News previously reported that in January 2022, council passed a resolution approving the purchase of a fire engine and an ambulance where $679,554 was set aside for the purchase.

Later the council said it needed an additional $300,000 for the purchase.

City Council President Antwon Billings along with other city council leaders pointed fingers at King back in May, but on Saturday Hemmons said, “I think that it is unfair for me to continue for me to hide behind the Mayor’s coattails.”

Although someone has taken responsibility, the reality persists.

The fire truck and ambulance still sit at Atlantic Emergency Solutions in Macedonia as the company demands payment.

“It’s a state of emergency. Our ladder truck we have is currently not working, and the fire engine doesn’t have lights. That’s putting the city at risk, putting fire at risk, that’s putting whoever is in the back of the vehicle at risk. Everything is at risk, and here it is that we as a government is not managing our funds,” Billings told 19 News.

Billings said the mayor continuously avoids responding to the questions of council.

King refused to speak with our crews back in May, however we have reached back out for comment and await a response.

Doctor Patricia Blochowiak, an East Cleveland Council member-at-large said the safety of the community is in jeopardy, “This is potential for a really serious problem.”

Billing said some EMS runs have resorted to using pick-up trucks for hospital transportation.

And in a email Friday to King from the lawyers of Atlantic Emergency Solutions, they demanded payment of $694,999.20 by July 5.

The email also said that delinquent payments are subject to a carrying charge of $10,424.99 a month.

This would be an additional charge of $41,699.96 for four months of late payment.

The email said they can waive the carrying charge if the payment is made by July 5.