Big Bucks in Berea

Residents say the mayor's triple-dipping is out of tune.

Dave McCamey fixes a French horn in his cramped store underneath an old photo of himself with burly Marvin Aday, better known to most people as schlock-and-roll star Meatloaf. McCamey has spent more than half his life around music, either selling and fixing instruments, as he does now as owner of Berea Music, or by playing trombone and drums on the wedding reception circuit. With his goatee, Harley-Davidson T-shirt, and long salt-and-pepper mane, the self-proclaimed "hippie on Front Street" looks like someone who'd be more comfortable jamming at a Santana show than going to court to fight Berea's mayor.

But McCamey, along with three other Berea residents, sounds serious when he talks about filing suit against Berea Mayor Stanley J. Trupo. While Trupo dismisses their claims about him as politically motivated noise that comes with every election--he is seeking a fourth term in November--McCamey and friends have raised some interesting questions about the mayor's salary. (Full disclosure: McCamey is a Scene advertiser.)

Unlike most mayors, Trupo does not have a set salary. Instead, legislation passed in 1996 by Berea City Council calls for the mayor to be paid 5 percent more than his highest-paid director. Last year that amounted to more than $88,500 for Trupo, who this year is pulling down more than $91,000 in salary, plus use of a car and an expense account.

"Our complaint is that the mayor appoints the directors and sets their salaries," McCamey says, leaning on a display case full of horns. "So he sets his own salary. We have a problem with that. So does the city charter."

Trupo actually makes a recommendation of what his five directors should be paid, which must then be approved by council. Council must also approve the mayor's salary. That would seem to be at odds with the city charter, which requires that the mayor's salary be set before the start of his four-year term rather than adjusted annually.

What really galls McCamey and his allies--a group that includes Berea City Councilman Greg Miller--is the way Trupo got a $15,000 raise in 1996, when the city was tightening its fiscal belt and laying off workers in the wake of the Browns' move to Baltimore.

As home of the Browns Training Facility, the city was able to tax part of the players' salaries. The Browns also attracted about 10,000 annual visitors--equal to more than half of the city's 19,000 residents--to watch the team practice. When the team moved, Berea lost an annual $350,000 from its coffers and had to maintain the city-owned training facility. (The National Football League eventually agreed to assist the city with upkeep.)

So the city laid off six workers and took other cost-cutting steps to trim nearly $500,000 from its budget. In one of those moves, Trupo consolidated the jobs of public service director and public safety director into one position. Once that was approved, Trupo picked Paul McCumbers to fill the position and bumped his salary (by more than $17,000) to $82,247.

Because of the provision requiring the mayor to earn 5 percent more than his highest-paid director, Trupo got a raise too.

"Yeah, it resulted in a pay raise," Trupo admits. "But it also resulted in about a $25,000 savings, because we didn't have to pay for a safety director's position."

Miller, a Berea councilman who says he may challenge Trupo in the November election, notes that John Whipple, Trupo's predecessor, earned $32,500 in 1987. "Trupo in effect tripled his salary during his tenure," Miller says. "When you look at what mayors of comparable cities make--the mayor of Cleveland makes $104,000, the mayor of Columbus makes $110,000--he has to be the highest-paid mayor per capita."

But his mayoral salary is not Trupo's only source of income. Just four months ago, the Berea mayor was appointed by the White House to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati's board of directors. Trupo says he's not sure exactly what he earns for sitting on the board, though he notes that the highest-paid directors receive between $23,000 and $28,000 annually. "But I'm not at that level yet," he says.

Some Democratic sources say Cleveland Mayor Michael White helped get Trupo appointed, a sentiment Trupo dismisses as "totally false." But the two men give every appearance of being political allies. Trupo supported Cleveland's bid to buy the International Exposition Center, a move crucial to the expansion White wants at Cleveland Hopkins Airport. Trupo has also sided with the city of Cleveland as a member of the Regional Transit Authority's board of directors. Two years ago, for example, both Trupo and the White Administration wanted RTA to kick in $3 million for the construction of the new Browns stadium, arguing that the facility would increase RTA ridership. General Manager Ronald Tober said at the time the figure was too high, but eventually RTA paid the $3 million.

White also appointed Trupo to co-chair a committee planning a week-long celebration for the opening of the new stadium in August.

"I'm not embarrassed about my voting record," Trupo says. "My voting record has nothing to do with Mike. He's got his thing and I've got mine."

McCamey has clashed with Trupo in the past over the use of a city-owned gazebo, where the music-store owner would like to put on free concerts. Now he and two other Berea residents have written a letter--through attorney Frank Groh-Wargo--to the city's law director, asking him to investigate the legality of Trupo's salary structure. McCamey doesn't expect the letter will accomplish much, and says his group may file a lawsuit asking a court to force Trupo to repay Berea.

Trupo is unimpressed, chalking their actions up to election-year politicking. "I didn't give myself a pay raise, [council] did," he says, shrugging off McCamey's threatened lawsuit. "I'm not overly concerned about it. It's a political year, and they just want to make it uncomfortable. It's get-even time."

Mike Tobin may be reached at [email protected].

Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.