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GCC Op-Ed on Statements From Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley

Written by Greater Cleveland Congregations

In recent statements and correspondence made public through the media, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley has levied an accusation of “extortion” against Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) leading up to a February 20 Prosecutor Candidates Forum between he and his primary opponent Matthew Ahn. This cannot go unchallenged.

The purpose of this forum was to give both candidates an opportunity to discuss the current state of the criminal justice system, specifically in the areas of youth justice, wrongful convictions, and aid to victims among others.

Mr. O’Malley has stated that GCC requested funding for its organization for programming purposes. This assertion is categorically false and as the most powerful law enforcement official in Cuyahoga County, Mr. O’Malley should know more than anyone that getting the facts straight are important to getting to the truth.

On February 8th, in a courtesy briefing, representatives of GCC requested that Mr. O’Malley consider, if re-elected, committing public funds to a respected East Side victim's trauma organization. This entity is one known to Mr. O’Malley and to which his office has referred persons, providing shelter and assistance to aid victims of violent crime. This preliminary request was also made to Mr. Ahn in a different meeting. Both Mr. Ahn and Mr. O’Malley would have this same question asked of them at the GCC-planned County Prosecutor’s Candidates Forum.

On the video call, also present was the organization’s founder. She spoke to Mr. O’Malley about her organization’s work and how additional support could expand their efforts to provide aid to even more victims. At no time did GCC request money for its own sake. GCC has reviewed the transcript and recording of the meeting and it plainly attests to these facts.

However, what concerns Greater Cleveland Congregations and should concern any other group seeking to engage in public action in Cuyahoga County is the attempt to impugn the reputation of a civic organization through public and media attacks. Our democracy has been driven forward by citizens taking public action through vigorous debate, community organizing, and making robust demands of decision-makers.

GCC is a community of people of diverse faiths, ethnicities, social and economic backgrounds. We are committed to working toward healthier, more just, equitable, and prosperous futures for everyone and we look forward to continuing working with our public and elected officials to do just that. But in the words of the late great John Lewis, GCC will not apologize for causing “good trouble” in the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. In fact, it is Mr. O’Malley who owes GCC a public apology.


Rev. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, Pastor, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland

Rev. John Lentz, Pastor, Forest Hill Presbyterian Church, Cleveland Heights