CLEVELAND, Ohio — The governing board of the Cuyahoga County land bank has resolved its months-long feud with county Executive Ed FitzGerald over the right to appoint members.
Under bylaws approved Friday, two suburban mayors who had voted with other board colleagues to reappoint themselves in March will lose their seats May 1. The mayors — Cyril Kleem of Berea and Georgine Welo of South Euclid — cast the only votes against the change.
FitzGerald had argued that the March vote to reappoint Kleem and Welo broke state law and usurped his authority to select board members.
FitzGerald still thinks the board’s actions were wrong, but he said in an interview this week that the new bylaws are a compromise.
“I have one of two choices,” he said. “I can take them to court … or I can reach an agreement with them.”
County Councilman Dan Brady, who on Friday was voted vice chairman of the land bank board, said the agreement will allow the agency to move on with its business. “I think we’re on track,” he said.
State lawmakers created the land bank in 2009 to acquire blighted houses and businesses. The bank demolishes some structures and renovates and sells others.
The governing board approved the new bylaws by a 5-to-2 vote. Kleem and Welo, who have ignored calls since July to step down, cast the dissenting votes.
Welo said she is disappointed that the new bylaws don’t guarantee a board seat for a representative from the Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association.
“We’re on the front lines,” she said. “We’re the ones who really see the trends.”
Kleem said he Thursday that is willing to leave, but will probably reapply.
“I think it’s a fair proposal,” he said.
The bylaws do not prevent the two mayors from reapplying for board membership. But their vacated positions must be publicly posted and applicants unanimously chosen by FitzGerald, his treasurer and a representative from County Council.
The deal also opens the door for a new land bank funding formula, which County Council refused to consider until the dispute was settled.
The nonprofit agency, formally called the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., wants to tap 5 percent of the money collected on delinquent tax bills as well as fees and interest, with a cap of $7 million. The nonprofit agency also wants to drop interest payments to the county of more than $200,000 each year.
The council’s finance committee is scheduled to take up the issue Wednesday.
“Going forward, they’ll be all set and ready to go,” said Councilman Mike Gallagher, a finance committee member who last month questioned the board’s legality. “My point wasn’t to raise questions about the land bank. But it was, ‘Is everything in order?’ Quite honestly at that point, it wasn’t. Now it will be.”
The bylaws also expand the board from seven to nine members, making room for a representative from Olmsted Township, in compliance with a state law requiring townships with more than 10,000 residents to have a board seat. The terms of those two new members will also expire in May.
“They will be two-year terms that commence in May of even-numbered years, in contrast to the board reupping the members willy-nilly” said county deputy chief for development, Nate Kelly, who represents FitzGerald on the board.