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GCC Responds to Prosecutor Michael O'Malley's False Accusations

Written by Greater Cleveland Congregations

In the lead-up to GCC’s February 20th candidate’s forum at Antioch Baptist Church, County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley made some exceedingly inflammatory and false statements about the multi-faith nonprofit organization. 

Cleveland, OH – February 22, 2024 –  Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC) is strongly challenging a February 11th letter Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley sent to GCC citing his reasons for not attending GCC’s February 20th candidate’s forum at Antioch Baptist Church on Cleveland’s East Side. Instead of joining other candidates at the event, he leaked the letter – which was filled with mischaracterizations about the nonprofit organization – to the media. The most egregious of those falsehoods was accusing GCC of extortion.

In his letter, Prosecutor O’Malley said, “Perhaps most concerning is the request that the office of the County Prosecutor commit to providing $500,000 from its budget to the GCC for programming. It is troubling that you would invite me to an assembly and demand that I allocate public money to your organization. In discussing your request with people in county government and within the criminal justice system, all are in agreement that it has both the look and feel of extortion. I do not say that lightly.”

In fact, in its pre-forum briefing with Prosecutor O’Malley (GCC routinely reviews draft questions with participating candidates prior to a forum), GCC asked the Prosecutor whether he would support a $500,000 investment in safe shelter and wrap-around services for victims of violent crimes provided by a local nonprofit trauma center – not GCC. GCC indicated this in a February 14th to the Prosecutor correcting this mischaracterization among others.

"I cannot imagine how Prosecutor O'Malley could make the claim he was 'not told' who the money was for. He was absolutely and clearly informed. The question we presented to him named the intended recipient, was read aloud and shown in print via screen share on our Zoom call," said Diana Woodbridge of Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian.

"As a co-founder of Greater Cleveland Congregations, I am stunned that County Prosecutor O’Malley had the temerity to accuse GCC of untoward intentions. The suggestion that GCC is practicing “extortion” is a grave one, and I implore Prosecutor O’Malley to walk back his words. We will not allow our name to be besmirched. My community’s association with GCC has always hinged on the integrity of its mission to be a faith-based, value-driven, representative body of the good people of Cuyahoga County," said Rabbi Joshua Caruso of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple.

“As a trained attorney, Mr. O’Malley is well versed in the law and should understand the implication of a making the assertion of ‘extortion.’ GCC is an organization of people of faith, not ‘extortionists.’ His charges are non-factual. We look forward to working with the County Prosecutor's Office now and in the future to address disparities, inequities and injustice responding in our Criminal Justice system for youth, racial minorities, the poor, the mentally challenged, substance abuse impacted and the wrongfully convicted,” said Rev. Dr. Jawanza Karriem Colvin, Pastor, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church.

"Jesus teaches Christians: ‘If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.’ He doesn't mean we should accept abuse. He means that rather than fight back or run away, there is a third way: sacred resistance. In response to Prosecutor O’Malley’s false accusation that GCC participated in ‘extortion,’ as people of faith we will not fight back on his terms, nor will we run away from the conflict. We will hold steady—working towards solutions for safety and justice in our community. It’s unfortunate that we’re wasting time addressing his outrageous accusation while our neighbors suffer. When Prosecutor O’Malley is ready to continue working with the community on solutions, GCC is ready to partner, " said Ryan Wallace, Senior Pastor, Fairmount Presbyterian Church.