CLEVELAND -- It's unusual for a public official in a county full of homeowners facing foreclosure to discourage them from seeking help.
But Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is joining local foreclosure assistance advising people NOT to attend a four-day help session being offered by the group NACA, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.
FitzGerald's position brought a showdown with the group and its supporters late Wednesday afternoon. A group of chanting, sign-waving homeowners who back NACA forced FitzGerald to move a press conference from outside Public Hall to his office.
When protesters tried to crash his event, sheriff's deputies were summoned to keep them outside. A NACA staffer and FitzGerald got into a heated debate about his remarks concerning the group.
NACA held a huge event in Cleveland three years ago, on July 17, 2009, at the Wolstein Center.
Related story: Cleveland: Frustrated homeowners say NACA mortgage help never came
An overwhelming turnout on a hot weekend left many homeowners claiming NACA did not deliver the help promised and left some of them in worse shape than they had been in.
Kimberly Ford claims she was promised a renegotiated mortgage that would cut in her monthly payments in half in a matter of days.
After two years of delays and phone calls, she claims she got the runaround and rude treatment from NACA with nothing good to show for it.
FitzGerald is advising homeowners to seek help from local groups like ESOP instead of NACA.
ESOP claims it's handled hundreds of cases of homeowners left frustrated by their dealings with NACA.
A NACA spokesman said many people are in their homes today because of NACA's help. He said 200 counselors and 17 lenders will be on hand at Cleveland's Public Auditorium from Thursday through Sunday.
The help is free. ESOP claims NACA is more interested in getting federal funding for processing initial case paperwork than it is in delivering results.
NACA calls this a "turf war," of sorts.
NACA is renting Public Hall for $20,000 for four days and paying another $13,000 for set-up costs.
The city heard complaints about the event being held there, but decided legally it had no choice but to make the building available.