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The student news site of Beachwood High School.

The Beachcomber

The student news site of Beachwood High School.

The Beachcomber

Beachwood Mayor Merle Gorden Scrutinized for Spending

Image from Beachcomber archives
Image from Beachcomber archives

Beachwood suddenly became the center of controversy this summer as Mayor Merle Gorden was criticized for questionable spending, causing BHS students and Beachwood residents to take sides. The publicity started June 6th, when Plain Dealer columnist Mark Naymik criticized Gorden for wasteful spending.

Gorden’s meal expenses were one of the greatest points of contention. Since December 2010, Gorden and local business leaders, city council members and others he dines with have spent $18,000 of taxpayer money, Naymik reported.

“If you look at the expenses, the meals become a very insignificant portion of what we’re doing for the return on the business community that we have here,” Gorden said in an interview with The Beachcomber.

“We have over 2,500 businesses in the City of Beachwood. In the past four to five years, we’ve attracted over 3,000 new employees into Beachwood,” he said.

He added that these meals were only breakfasts and lunches, and dinner or other evening expenses were never charged to the city.

Gorden’s annual base pay of just under $200,000, as reported by Naymik, is also stirring up debate. He also collects retirement payments, pushing his salary over $350,000, according to Plain Dealer reports.

Naymik and those who agree with him see Gorden’s salary – more than any other mayor in Ohio and Gov. John Kasich – as excessive.

Gorden emphasized that city council sets the pay for the mayor, regardless of who fills the position.

“I am not involved at all. I don’t speak to council. They don’t interview me. They don’t ask my opinion of what the salary should be,” Gorden said.

Another point of controversy is the mayor’s practice of cashing out his unused vacation time, which Naymik reported could contribute around $17,000 to his base salary, causing it to reach the near $200,000 mark.

“We’re no different than many governments and many businesses… it’s a benefit, it’s a perk, and whether you use it or not, you receive the buy-out for it.”

Gorden sees the controversy as casting the Beachwood community in a negative light.

“If Beachwood is not considered a premier community, we don’t know what the snowball effect of that will be,” Gorden said.

“The stability of the government, the operation of what we do here, has a direct impact on property values, the school system, and the relationship this government has maintained,” he said.

Gorden urged community members to “speak out” to remedy this image.

Gorden and city council have already taken steps to remedy this image themselves.

Next term, whomever is elected mayor has limits to the amount of vacation time they can cash out, and will get no pay increase from the salary Gorden currently receives.

These measures were passed by city council, upon Gorden’s recommendation.

Gorden told the Cleveland Jewish News additional changes he would make to correct practices perceived as unethical including increasing transparency and giving council more power to review expenses.

Ultimately, voters will determine the outcome of Gorden’s actions this November, when Gorden runs against Brian Linick, currently a city council member.

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    ChangeneededinbeachwoodAug 27, 2013 at 5:23 AM

    In the same interview the Mayor claimed that he has absolutely nothing to do with the setting of his salary and then claims it was his recommendation to council that it not be increased. These two things contradict each other.

    For the record, the Mayor didn’t have any issue with the raises when no one knew about them. Only after a month of bad PR did he decide it wasn’t a good idea or a good time to raise the mayors salary.

    What I don’t understand is four years ago in 2009, which was the last time council voted for the mayor to receive a 3.5% raise in esch of the next 4 years and when the city was facing such poor economic conditions that they would have to increase, the mayor didn’t have any issue with the raise then??? is it just bc the public didnt know that his compensation is higher than any elected official in Ohio as well as more than any of the governors if all 50 states in the US.

    I find it insulting that when the public was in the dark he had no issue with all these things and claimed they were not in his control. However, now it has been embarrassingly exposed it is somehow in his power and authority to “recommend that council not grant him a raise” and “pledge to hold more meetings at city hall and ban city paid meals between him and city staff (this is the vast majority of the meals)” and “only cash in a certain amount of vacation/personal days”.

    I have to laugh that the mayor has tried to position himself as the reformer for placing these self imposed rules on the mayor’s office. Mr. Mayor, you are not a reformer when you were the only one taking advantage of the things you placed self imposed bans on.

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    changeneededinbwoodAug 26, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    “He added that these meals were only breakfasts and lunches, and dinner or other evening expenses were never charged to the city.”

    Really Mr. Mayor… The PD published all the receipts at

    Very sad that we have to fact check every single thing you say. Here are some dinner receipts you charged the city for dinners as well as some other questionable receipts.

    – 6-13-11 at 720 pm the mayor charged the city 30.78 at Stonewater golf course. On the receipt was 5 desserts but according to the receipt they were all for the Mayor as he didn’t list any guests.
    – 9-6-11 at 613pm the Mayor took his assistant and Council President Mel Jacobs to McCormicks and Schmick’s for a total bill of $45.23
    – 4-16-12 at 6:06 pm the Mayor took his assistant Tina Turick to Bahama Breeze to review the office position of the new economic development position and spent $39.36
    – 4-26-12 at 6:18pm the Mayor took his assistant and his economic development director to Bahama Breeze to “review econ dev plans” and spent $60.37.
    – 5-21-12 at 6:19pm the Mayor took his assistant Tina Turick, Steve Luttner and David Whitcomb to Maggiano’s and spent $116.42. The Mayor left blank the spot where is supposed to list the purpose of the meeting.
    – 6.28.12 at 5:15pm the Mayor took his assistant Tina Turick to Maggiano’s and spent $51.59.
    – 7.16.12 at 5:03pm the Mayor took his assistant Tina Turick to Maggiano’s and spent $40.83.
    – 11.7.12 at 6:39pm the mayor took councilman Horwitz to Cedar Creek Grill and spent $60.34.
    – 10.2.12 at 8:26pm the Mayor took his assistant Tina Turick, his campaign manager Trina Trill, the economic development director Jim Doutt, Nancy Lesic (the city’s PR person they have on retainer), Rochelle Hecht (the P&Z chairwoman) and Sally Deitrick (another city employee) . The total amount spent for these 7 people who work for either the city was $230.29
    – 4.18.13 at 5:54pm the mayor took his assistant Tina Turick and his campaign manager Trina Trill to Bahama Breeze and spent $61.24.
    – 1.14.13 at 6:27pm the Mayor took his assistant Tina Turick, Rochelle Hecht (P&Z Chairwoman) and Nancy Lesic (The PR woman on retainer) to Magginos and spent a total $153.60.
    – 2.26.13 the Mayor took Stuart Garson to breakfast. Mr. Garson is the head of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. It is against the law for the Mayor to spend city money to pay for meals for political meetings.
    – On 5.3.13 the Mayor stayed at a Hampton Inn and the total charge was $232.33. He did not provide the receipt however, the accompanying forms showed the total for the room including taxes was only $208.98. Since Hampton Inn has free internet but doesn’t have room service, I can only guess the $23.35 difference was the cost of an in room movie. Why is the City of Beachwood paying for this?