City Council Moves to Reform Mayoral Benefits


The Beachwood City Council meeting on Dec. 15, 2014.

On Monday, April 20 the Beachwood City Council voted 6-0 to pass a  new ordinance that will not allow any mayor to pocket gratuities from officiating weddings or to cash in unused vacation days.

In March, the mayor paid back $2,800 of money previously pocketed from these sources.

“We have struck any reference to vacation, so that [the mayor] doesn’t accrue vacation [pay] anymore. We also moved and struck [the] line…‘gratuities received,’” City Council Member Alec Isaacson explained. As a result, Gorden can no longer accept gratuities for weddings he officiates.

“Travel expenses for official business of the City or the reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses in excess of Five Hundred Dollars… must be approved by Council,” the ordinance states.

Any other benefits besides insurance must be approved by City Council. Vacation days are no longer part of the Mayor’s contract.

“[This legislation] reflects that the mayor is a salaried officeholder and his salary will cover the performance of his duties, not hours worked,” City Council President Fred Goodman said.

Last year, Gorden was paid $10,131 for unused vacation days, The Plain Dealer  reported. Although the police force, firefighters and service workers can still cash in their unused vacation days in accordance with what their three respective unions have bargained for, Goodman explained, this legislation only affects the mayor.

Goodman explained the rationale behind the previous practice. “We were looking to treat him the same as other employees, and other employees within the city can cash in unused vacation time,” he said.

However, the compensation of unused vacation days doesn’t seem to be a universal practice for elected officials.

“In my experience in county government … judges get so many vacation days a year but [for] any other county elected official, there’s no vacation provided and there’s certainly no vacation payout,” Larry Long, a local government professor at The Ohio State University said. “The only time you generally get paid for vacation leave … is when you terminate or retire.”

Gorden agreed with the new ordinance.

“Council approached me with [the proposed legislation], and I agreed that we don’t need to…[compensate for accrued vacation], so we changed the ordinance,” he said.

Our intent is, some time in the future, to look into this with more depth and make sure that…whoever the mayor is, is compensated appropriately.

— City Council Member Alec Isaacson

Mark Naymik of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and WKYC’s Tom Meyer both found that since 2007, Gorden has collected over $9,000 from officiating wedding fees, according to Cleveland Scene magazine.  Under the new ordinance, he will no longer be able to collect these fees.

Professor Long was not concerned about the marriage fees.

“I think sometimes people want to pay and expect to pay something like that,” he said.

Beachwood resident David Firestone sees another side.

“Unfortunately, all the scrambling and legislation that is happening is only [a] reaction to the issue, and giving the appearance that our Council is doing something to prevent this abuse moving forward,” he said.

The new ordinance is not an end to the revision of mayoral policies, nor a change in the mayor’s job description.

“Our intent is, some time in the future, to look into this with more depth and make sure that…whoever the mayor is, is compensated appropriately,” Isaacson said.