CLEVELAND, Ohio – Former Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Lance Mason deserves a second chance.
Just not inside Cleveland City Hall.
Mayor Frank Jackson’s decision to give Mason a job after Mason’s early release from prison on wife-beating charges is an astounding snub to hard-working Clevelanders who Jackson says should back him for an unprecedented fourth-term.
Taxpayers should not have to pay $45,000 a year for Mason’s career rehabilitation. He forfeited his great government job when he brutalized his wife in front of their children. He doesn’t deserve such easy access to a new gig with good benefits and a generous pension – when so many others are clawing for a similar opportunity.
Jackson recently told cleveland.com during an editorial endorsement interview that it’s fair to highlight the three DUIs of his mayoral opponent, Zack Reed, because the crimes raise a “legitimate issue around judgment and accountability.”
“It becomes a choice of the voters on whether they believe there’s good judgment,” Jackson said.
Some might say punching your wife 20 times with a closed fist and smashing her head against the car’s center console five times shows an even more alarming lack of judgment.
Hiring that type of guy also shows a lack of judgment.
Jackson and his defenders are quick to point that the mayor has long preached that people should not be defined by one mistake. And Jackson has a record of giving people a second chance. I’ve written before about high-profile, second-chance hires made by Jackson and other mayors. The second chancers have all been political allies, but they have also been far less violent that Mason.
Surely, there is a person more deserving of a second chance than Mason.
Jackson’s office insists no politics played into hiring the once politically active Democrat from Shaker Heights to be the city’s minority business development administrator. The city also said Mason was the best qualified among 16 applicants for the positon, noting that Mason’s law background makes him well suited to read business contracts.
But if a legal background mattered so much, you’d think the job description would include that. It doesn’t. On paper, Mason is overqualified. Most lawyers won’t take a job that pays $45,000 annually. While that’s far more money than the average Clevelander makes, it’s not attractive to people with law degrees. But Mason, who is barred from serving as a judge again, surely is grateful for the job as he fights before the Ohio Supreme Court to keep his law license.
On Wednesday, the Jackson administration tried to justify the pick by showing off how the city followed protocol and how many people signed off on Mason’s hiring. That is ludicrous. Personal character matters in job hiring — and the city chose not to consider it.
There’s one more point worth making: City Hall’s incompetent handling of media inquiries about Mason’s hiring.
When first confronted by Channel 3’s Tom Meyer, who broke the story, Jackson’s front-man, Dan Williams, did not appear to know about the hiring. And as he fumbled for responses, he laughably demanded that Meyer’s camera operator stop filming. (Note to Williams: protesting filming makes great television.)
Is the three-term mayor and his staff so out of touch and clueless that they never considered that the hiring of a wife beater might become a story?
That is troubling, to be sure. But what should really give voters pause is the poor judgment the mayor showed in signing off on a guy like Mason.