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East Cleveland law director apologizes for lack of funds for new fire truck

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) – East Cleveland Law Director Willa Hemmons took responsibility in a statement Saturday for the disappearance of nearly $1 million that had been set aside for a new fire truck.

RELATED TOPIC: East Cleveland City Council accuses mayor of embezzling money for new fire truck

Hemmons said the funds were used to pay firefighters court-ordered back wages after the city lost a lawsuit on the issue in 2021.

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

In May, the East Cleveland City Council asked Mayor Brandon King for answers about a nearly $1 million shortfall in the city’s general fund that was earmarked for a new fire truck and ambulance.

19 News previously reported that in January 2022, the council passed a resolution authorizing the purchase of a fire truck and ambulance, allocating $679,554 for the purchase.

The council later announced that an additional $300,000 would be needed for the purchase.

City Council President Antwon Billings and other city council members had already pointed the finger at King in May, but on Saturday Hemmons said, “I think it’s unfair that I continue to hide behind the mayor.”

Even though someone has taken responsibility, the reality remains.

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

“It’s a state of emergency. Our aerial ladder is currently not working and the fire truck has no lights. It puts the city at risk, it puts the fires at risk, it puts anyone in the back of the vehicle at risk. Everything is at risk and we as a government are not stewards of our funds,” Billings told 19 News.

Billings said the mayor continually avoids answering council questions.

King declined to speak to our teams in May, but we have reached out to him again for comment and are awaiting a response.

Dr. Patricia Blochowiak, a member of the East Cleveland Community Council, said the community’s safety was at risk: “This could become a really serious problem.”

Billing said some ambulance trips involved using pickup trucks to transport patients to the hospital.

And in an email to King on Friday, attorneys for Atlantic Emergency Solutions demanded payment of $694,999.20 by July 5.

The email also stated that late payments would incur a processing fee of $10,424.99 per month.

Four months of late payment would equate to an additional fee of $41,699.96.

The email stated that the transportation fee could be waived if payment was received by July 5.

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