May 9, 2024 - News

Bibb's public safety adviser resigns amid controversy

Photo illustration of a Cleveland Police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

A Cleveland public safety official has resigned under glaring scrutiny for his history with Mayor Justin Bibb and a high-profile civil rights case in Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: The city created the senior safety adviser position and hired Phillip McHugh in January to "assist Interim Public Safety Director Wayne Drummond with operational tasks, strategy and data analysis."

  • Ideastream reported Thursday that McHugh made "tweaks" to the job description in correspondence with City Hall months before the job was formally posted.

Driving the news: McHugh submitted his letter of resignation Thursday to Bibb.

  • McHugh's attorney, Andrew Stebbins, sent Axios a statement regarding the resignation.

What they're saying: "While it has been an honor to serve the City of Cleveland for this brief time, the politically motivated character assassination campaign initiated against me by certain disingenuous members of the City Council and media has made it nearly impossible to focus on the work and to serve the City effectively," he wrote.

Catch up quick: McHugh, a former police detective in Washington, D.C., was Bibb's roommate at American University.

  • In a 2016 federal civil rights lawsuit, McHugh was alleged to have violated an elderly Black couple's civil rights.
  • The couple dropped claims against McHugh when the case was settled three years later.

The intrigue: The Cleveland branch of the NAACP launched a Change.org petition last month calling for McHugh's ouster, and multiple Cleveland City Council members publicly called for his termination.

  • "He was given a job because of a relationship and that's disrespectful for any Clevelander," Councilman Richard Starr said April 15.

The other side: "I vehemently deny false suggestions that I have lied to or deceived the Mayor, the City, or members of the media regarding an investigation I conducted nearly a decade ago," McHugh wrote in his statement.

  • "I uprooted my family and left behind the personal and professional life I spent nearly twenty years building in Washington, D.C. because I believed in the Mayor's vision for Cleveland and I am confident I could have helped achieve it."

Bibb issued a statement Thursday, saying he recognized hiring McHugh "evoked pain" in the community.

  • "The issues of race, discrimination and privilege that have been raised are complex and nuanced, and I've been grappling with how to best navigate and address them," he wrote.
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