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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 26, 2007

Santiago to face likely December recall

Cleveland--The city’s only openly gay city councilor is facing a likely recall vote led by his former opponent.

Joe Santiago became Cleveland’s first openly gay official in 2005 when he defeated Nelson Cintron Jr. for the Ward 14 seat. It was a contentious race that Santiago won by 106 votes.

Now Cintron says Santiago should be recalled, and has filed an affidavit to begin the process under Cleveland’s charter.

The petition was filed with the council clerk September 27. It gives him 30 days--until this Saturday--to collect 598 signatures, 20 percent of the Ward 14 residents that voted in that election.

If Cintron succeeds, Santiago will face the voters again between December 6 and December 26.

Cintron is the only person who signed the papers filed with council. He claims there is a group behind the effort, but refuses to comment on who it is.

He says Santiago “does not represent the best interests of Ward 14, nor the best interests of the residents of Ward 14.”

The affidavit continues, “Councilman Santiago has acted contrary to the wishes of the residents and electors of Ward 14.”

Cintron cites what he says are six deficiencies.

One is true, according to Santiago.

Cintron says Santiago broke his promise to live inside the ward.

Santiago’s Tremont home was historically part of Ward 14 until the boundaries changed in 2001. Now it is across Interstate 71 from the ward’s border. But the city’s charter does not require councilors to live in the ward they represent.

The other items are less obvious as to their accuracy, and Cintron, when asked, is refusing to explain them further.

Two items deal with zoning variances for two businesses in the ward, a doggie day care and a bar.

“Councilman Santiago has acted contrary to the wishes of the residents and electors of Ward 14 in supporting a variance for the Mutt Hutt and attempting to allow La Copa Night Club to operate contrary to the zoning ordinances of the City of Cleveland,” Cintron charges.

Santiago says neither business is controversial or operating outside the law, and city records and minutes indicate that both variances were unanimously granted by the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

Santiago says he attends all zoning board meetings when they concern his ward, and does not try to influence the board one way or the other.

The rest involve the Clark Metro Development Corporation, a community service non-profit. Cintron sits on its board of directors. It can receive federal development money via the city’s budget, which is overseen by the ward’s council member.

In 1999, Cintron cut off $47,000 from the corporation and said it needed to be merged with another because it did not meet its objectives.

Cintron’s charges against Santiago related to Clark Metro are not clear, and Cintron declined to comment on them.

But the signatures, not the charges, determine whether or not the recall election will occur.

Santiago is gearing up for another campaign.

As soon as the affidavit appeared, Santiago responded with a letter to his constituents.

“It is unfortunate that the former councilman, Nelson Cintron, has not been able to accept that you have chosen me to represent you,” Santiago wrote.

“It is even more unfortunate that that he has tried to halt or interfere with progress in Ward 14 in an attempt to make me look bad and in his desperation to get a job, which he has not been able to do since losing his job at the county recorder’s office and a bid for state representative,” Santiago continued.

Asked if he was currently employed, Cintron replied, “That’s personal. I don’t discuss my personal life.”

If Cintron is successful and voters recall Santiago in the December election, council will temporarily fill the seat until another election can be held for a new councilor, within 120 days.

Cintron refuses to say whether or not he would seek the seat.

Santiago, who would also be eligible, says he would not.

Cintron says he will make more of his plans and intentions public and introduce the group behind him on the recall effort when the petitions are filed.



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