EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio - The animosity between East Cleveland city council and its mayor, Gary Norton, was palpable at the Wednesday night's council meeting.
Norton laid out to council members and an audience of a dozen residents, layoffs to the police force if a budget cuts take place.
"This is about safety, not about politics at all. This is real, this is not make believe or imaginary," said Mayor Norton.
Norton said the cuts would devastate manpower and eliminate the narcotics units.
"There will be no more house drug busts in the city of East Cleveland," the mayor said He said 14 officers on the road would become two two-man cars.
Norton characterized the budget cuts at 25 percent while council said the cuts to the department's budget at less than 10 percent.
After he made his presentation, Norton left the meeting, a move that rankled many council members.
One by one, the five members of council took turns blaming the mayor and his administration for blowing a hole in the city's budget which now, council estimates, has an $8 million shortfall.
"If you have a credit card and you've maxed that credit card out, you get penalized. Well, he had that credit card for this community and he went way beyond it, $6 million to $8 million as we count right now and it might be more ," said councilman Nathaniel Martin.
Council members said the mayor is once again using scare tactics, a scenario they say he has used in each December of his administration. Norton took office in December 2010.
Council member Chantelle Lewis said the current police budget is approximately $4.1 million and council is cutting that to $3.8 million. She said the mayor has proposed a police budget of $4.8 million.
Waving copies of police salaries, she said, "Do not sit here and believe the hype, that is not 25 percent, I don't care who does the math because when you have data on the table, it definitely changes the conversation."
East Cleveland was placed into a state of fiscal emergency by Auditor of State Dave Yost last October.
Reading from Yost's report, councilman Martin reiterated council's placing of the blame at the mayor's feet, "Norton failed to control overtime" he added, "wasteful spending is the problem, not us, him."
East Cleveland cut 38 officers from its force in a 2011 budget cutting move.