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Government & Politics

Ohio Auditor: Cleveland Official Must Return RTA Board Compensation

A top Cleveland official must repay tens of thousands of dollars she collected as a member of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority board, the state auditor said Thursday.

RTA trustee Valarie McCall, who also serves as Mayor Frank Jackson’s chief of governmental affairs, improperly received $57,200 from the transit authority, Ohio Auditor Keith Faber found in a newly released audit.

Although board members are entitled to a $400 monthly stipend, McCall should have gone unpaid because she served on the board in her capacity as a city official, Faber found.

“Ms. McCall was appointed as an employee of the city and in seeking payment, she was effectively receiving double compensation,” Faber said in a Thursday news release.

Faber also found RTA’s former secretary-treasurer and board president liable for the repayment.

In an emailed statement, McCall’s attorney, Jon Pinney, questioned why RTA had approved the payments in the first place, only to raise questions about them later.

“The RTA compensated Board members pursuant to its bylaws for over 30 years,” Pinney wrote. “Ms. McCall was no exception. It is very troubling that RTA authorized and issued the board stipend to Ms. McCall and then subsequently raised the matter to the Ohio Auditor. It is even more troubling that she has apparently been singled out by RTA. We are pleased that the Auditor found RTA’s former officers jointly and severally liable for reimbursing the RTA and look forward to resolving this matter swiftly.” 

McCall’s 2006 board appointment letter stipulated that she not be compensated, though subsequent letters didn’t address her pay, according to the audit.

RTA did not pay McCall until 2014, when she requested back pay and received $35,600, the audit says. She then received a monthly stipend until 2018.

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, RTA Board President Dennis Clough said he agreed with the auditor’s findings.

“We are eager to see that taxpayers’ money be returned to RTA,” Clough, the mayor of Westlake, said in the statement. “Necessary steps are being taken to recover the money.”

Faber’s audit also found that former board president George Dixon III must repay $132,000 in unpaid healthcare benefits. Dixon pleaded guilty to theft in office in late 2019, in connection with the benefits, and a judge already ordered him to return the money as part of his sentence.

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