East Cleveland Struggles to Find Stable Financial Ground Amidst Ongoing Fiscal Emergency

East Cleveland Struggles to Find Stable Financial Ground Amidst Ongoing Fiscal Emergency

The search for a new finance director proves challenging for East Cleveland as the city grapples with financial distress.

East Cleveland, a small suburb on the East Side, has been mired in a fiscal emergency for the majority of the past three and a half decades. Despite efforts to address the city’s financial woes, East Cleveland has struggled to recover, leaving it in desperate need of a new finance director. With an interim director currently managing the job of three people, the city faces a myriad of financial challenges, including bookkeeping delays, chaotic municipal court accounts, and a lack of oversight in credit card usage. As the search for a permanent finance director continues, the city’s future hangs in the balance.

A City in Financial Distress

East Cleveland’s financial distress was officially recognized by the state auditor in 2012 when the city reported deficits of $5.8 million. Since then, the city, home to fewer than 14,000 residents, has been unable to escape the cycle of fiscal emergency. Despite various attempts to rectify the situation, East Cleveland remains trapped in a dire financial state.

Challenges Faced by the Interim Finance Director

Currently, an interim finance director is attempting to navigate the complex financial landscape of East Cleveland. However, the workload is overwhelming, with the interim director shouldering the responsibilities of three individuals. Barbara Mattei-Smith, the state official overseeing East Cleveland’s finances, has expressed concern over the city’s inability to reconcile its books, particularly the chaotic state of the municipal court accounts. The court has only provided bank statements up until September of the previous year, causing further complications.

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Credit Card Mismanagement and Financial Consequences

Another pressing issue highlighted by Mattei-Smith is the misuse and lack of oversight in city credit card usage. Numerous individuals had access to these cards, leading to confusion and potential financial mismanagement. In an attempt to rectify the situation, East Cleveland shut down all credit cards, inadvertently including one that was being used to pay court costs. Efforts to reinstate the credit card have been unsuccessful due to unpaid bills, exacerbating the city’s financial predicament.

The Struggle to Find a Permanent Finance Director

Despite the urgent need for a permanent finance director, East Cleveland has faced significant challenges in filling the position. One applicant even walked out during the job interview, while others demanded higher salaries than the city can afford, estimated at $95,000 per year. Mattei-Smith has recommended hiring an outside accounting firm to handle the financial responsibilities instead of relying on a single individual. The difficulty in finding qualified candidates reflects the daunting nature of the role and the city’s ongoing financial crisis.

A City in Decline

East Cleveland’s financial struggles can be traced back to a declining tax base, resulting from a shrinking population and economic setbacks. The closure of the Cleveland Clinic’s Huron Hospital, a major employer, in 2011 further exacerbated the city’s economic woes. Despite efforts to cut costs and generate revenue, such as operating an impound lot for towed cars, East Cleveland has faced setbacks, including a failed recovery effort that led to the creation of an illegal construction debris dump.


As East Cleveland continues to grapple with its long-standing fiscal emergency, the search for a new finance director becomes increasingly crucial. The city’s financial challenges, including delayed bookkeeping, chaotic court accounts, and credit card mismanagement, highlight the need for strong leadership and expertise in managing its finances. With an interim director only staying until March, the city faces a critical deadline to find a permanent solution. The future of East Cleveland hangs in the balance as it strives to overcome its financial distress and chart a path towards stability and prosperity.

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