BEACHWOOD, Ohio — Embattled Beachwood mayor Martin Horwitz has had a second claim of improper conduct in the workplace settled by lawyers for the city’s insurance group, according to a story in Cleveland Jewish News.
According to CJN, Whitney Crook, clerk of council and a legal assistant, sought $25,000 and “a written assurance that no further conduct will occur” in a Feb. 7 demand letter from her attorney, Brian Green, of Shapero & Green LLC in Beachwood. On May 26, Crook signed a release agreement awarding her $16,000. The Feb. 7 demand letter specified three incidents taking place since the mayor took office in January 2018.
Amongst the allegations, Crook claimed Horwitz looked down her shirt and made an inappropriate comment about her tattoo that was partially showing.
No one on Beachwood City Council was involved in the settlement. The Cleveland Jewish News reports that to date, the city has paid $79,098.43 in settlements, attorney fees and other costs over allegations against Horwitz since he took office in January 2018. That figure does not include the $16,000 paid to Crook or the $5,386.65 in lawyers’ fees and expenses associated with that case.
A previous settlement was paid to Horwitz's former executive secretary, according to the CJN.
3News reached out to Horwitz's office via email for comment, but have yet to receive a response. However, one member of Beachwood City Council is voicing concerns about how the process played itself out.
Councilman Mike Burkons spoke to 3News about the settlements paid and the accusations that have been made against Mayor Horwitz. Burkons believes the city first erred by not releasing the February demand letter.
"I trust our residents have the ability to read the demand letter and form their own opinion. I have confidence many would have shared my position, that the three accusations contained in the demand letter didn’t rise to the level of harassment or a hostile workplace," Burkons said. "I don’t understand why we chose to handle it this way when if we decided to be transparent from the start it would have provided a completely accurate narrative that doesn’t make it look like we approve of a culture where employees can be disrespected and quietly settle claims."
In addition, Burkons was frustrated that the city's insurance representative settled the claim without the approval of the Beachwood City Council. "Out of the blue on June 1st, Council was informed that the insurance representative decided to settle the claim without Council’s knowledge or approval and it took two weeks and CJN hiring a lawyer and threatening a lawsuit for Council to be told the amount and terms of the settlement," he said.
"Sadly, I am the only one who seems to care that it was improper to allow our insurance representative to settle a claim without our knowledge or approval or thinks it’s a big deal," Burkons added.
Last fall, Horwitz came under fire and was investigated by Beachwood City Council for multiple allegations of harassment in the workplace and inappropriate comments. Lawyers retained by council said of the 24 allegations, 14 were found to be substantiated or highly credible, while 10 weren’t substantiated at all.
Horwitz allegedly said to a visibly pregnant city employee, "you’ve really let yourself go.” He also allegedly asked 'whether the pornography on his computer was a public record that could be searched.'
In the end, there was a unanimous decision allow the mayor keep his job. Horwitz said at the time that he planned to work with human resources to take classes on harassment and hostile workplace training.