(LFC Comments: The mystery of our lobbyist’s Willoughby Hills saga continues to unfold. As a reminder, here is part 1 of this 5 part scandal.
Who’s Dumping in Willoughby Hills…part 2
The most notable episode of Willoughby Hills political mud-slinging happened in October of 2018 when Mayor Robert Weger called a press conference to announce he was firing six of seven council members. Sure, anyone viewing this spectacle—outside the city limits anyway—thought the same thing: He can’t do that! As the drama wore on and Weger insisted he could do it because these legislators had the nerve to “cut the budget too much”, it became clear to anyone—outside the city limits anyway—what this nonsense was all about.
Yes, Virginia, to find the source of the drama in Willoughby Hills you must follow the money. Good Ol’ Boys want to keep the city budget—all those juicy proceeds from the highest sewer fees in Lake County, the infamous RITA double tax, and property taxes that have gone through the roof—to themselves and those Good Ol’ Boys will do anything to keep their hands on it.
In October of 2018, Weger was trying to remove the pesky Council because they told him he couldn’t spend $25,000 of taxpayer dollars on a brand new car for himself or $4,000 a year for his personal gas allowance. Council said no to spending over $100,000 a year for Weger’s personal secretary. And Council said no to spending hundreds of more thousands of dollars to hire Weger’s political supporters, the children, sisters, husbands, friends, or companies of Weger’s political supporters. The audacity of that Council telling Weger that the city should spend the taxpayer money on crazy things like staffing the fire department or paving roads instead led to Weger’s epic meltdown in October of 2018.
But with the obviousness of Weger’s October 2018 political stunt completely on display, it seemed finally that Weger had crossed a bridge too far. By Christmas of 2018, Weger begrudgingly agreed to a truce with the Council.
However, it wasn’t the temporary restraining order or a crisis of conscience that led Weger to this noble act. You see, earlier in 2018 Council cut over $300,000 in administrative employee salaries and benefits to avoid a deficit budget, fund minimally safe staffing of the fire department and to pave roads. But that administrative staff consisted of Weger’s personal secretary and those political supporters and their families he was employing.
These cronies also had formed a union to protect their cash supply and when the inevitable cuts came, Weger’s cronies’ union sued the taxpayers. Conveniently, Weger was tasked with defending the City against his cronies’ union’s lawsuit and, conveniently, fired the city’s lawyer so the law wouldn’t get in his way. Unsurprisingly, Weger then failed to defend the taxpayers against his cronies’ union’s lawsuit and the taxpayers were forced to rehire the cronies and to continue dumping taxpayers’ money to them for at least another year.
Much to everyone’s surprise though, the truce seemed to work, but of course this is not because Weger suddenly was interested in doing the right thing. Prior to the 2018 Christmas truce, as a trade-off, Weger outsourced the City’s union dispatchers to Lake County which conveniently saved the city over $300,000 a year—the same amount the city was saving with the administrative salary cuts from the 2018 budget. Weger traded the dispatchers for his cronies so the city could afford to pave roads, staff the fire department and balance the budget and keep his gravy train rolling.
Council agreed to overspend $300,000+ on Weger’s cronies for the last year of his term to protect the city from further Weger-induced shenanigans and to ensure the fire department was properly staffed, roads were repaved and enough of the taxpayer’s money was reinvested into the future health of the city.
For a while, at least, the truce worked. With Weger’s shenanigans on hold, the city thrived. The budget that was “cut too much” in 2018 lead to a similar (relatively) lean budget in 2019 which was finally a budget that invested in the health of the city. Weger and his craziness got out of the way and allowed Council members to professionally represent the city. Businesses started moving in. The headlines were great.
But politics in Willoughby Hills is a blood sport, and you can pay a lot of cronies a lot of money if you control city hall; and you can’t do that if you have people in the Mayor’s office or on Council who want to properly invest the taxpayers money into the city. By August, it was clear that the Good Ol’ Boys weren’t going to go quietly into the night. The Club recruited Gardner, Hallum, Jarmuszkiewicz, Kline and Draper to do their dirty work, and they followed the money—loudly.
(LFC Comments: We can’t wait to read “the rest of the story”. I don’t know if it is just me, but when I drive through Willoughby Hills, I may have to come home and take a shower with all the dumping and mud-slinging going on in the city. So much for being a public servant serving the citizens, and being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money. A very sad commentary about the public servants in Willoughby Hills.)