2016 CP P(D) Rating and Rationale

2016 CP P(D) Rating and Rationale

The Citizens League of Greater Cleveland has rated both candidates as well qualified, but split in stating a preference in the race for the office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor. 

In 2012, the voters of Cuyahoga County faced an historic election.  For the first time since 1956 the incumbent County Prosecutor was not seeking reelection.  Timothy McGinty took 35% of the vote in a five-candidate primary, then 79% against an independent candidate in the general election.  His challenger in this year’s primary race is Michael O’Malley, a former Assistant Prosecutor and member of Cleveland City Council.

The historic local significance of the 2012 race now pales in significance to the nationally historic issues that have come to define Mr. McGinty’s first term. Within days of the general election in 2012, a police chase that began in downtown Cleveland culminated in a barrage of 137 bullets into the vehicle driven by Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.  Both were killed.  Two years later, two Cleveland police officers shot to death twelve-year-old Tamir Rice in a Cleveland park.  That shooting followed by only three months the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, which followed the fatal shooting of a black man by a white police officer. Due to significant protests that erupted in each city, Ferguson, Cleveland, and Baltimore have since been mentioned together in discussions about police use of force and the relationship of law enforcement generally to the African American Community. 

In May 2015, an officer who fired many of the shots at Russell and Williams was acquitted of charges of voluntary manslaughter following a trial where McGinty aggressively sought a prosecution.   In December 2015, McGinty announced that the grand jury proceedings would not result in charges against the two officers involved in Tamir Rice’s death. That outcome has been the central issue in this campaign.

Over the last several months, participants in The Citizens League’s Candidates Program researched the candidates’ backgrounds, prepared and issued a lengthy questionnaire, and conducted a lengthy interview of each candidate.  Each of these three items is included in the candidate’s Digital Dossier™ (McGinty; O'Malley), which, along with the video of the interviews (McGinty; O'Malley), is available on the League’s web site. 

As with other elections (view our archive and video channel), The Citizens League’s Voter Education Committee sought to assist voters by publishing the information contained in the Digital Dossiers™, providing a qualifications-based rating of anywhere from one to five stars, and stating a preference.  While it chose not to state a preference due to a vote split, The Citizens League did observe that the election presents a choice between change and the status quo, with qualified candidates on either side of that choice. 

Michael O’Malley received three stars, meaning that the League determined that he is well qualified for the position.  After graduating from Kent State University, he worked as a bailiff and probation officer in the Cleveland Municipal Courts and attended law school in the evenings.  He was admitted to practice law in 1992.  He opened his own practice, working part time as a municipal lawyer while practicing probate and criminal law.  In 1999, he was elected to Cleveland City Council, serving until 2005.  He then served for two years as Assistant Director of the Department of Public Utilities under Mayors Campbell and Jackson before serving eight years as an Assistant County Prosecutor.  He serves as Safety Director for the City of Parma. 

Most notably, O’Malley is critical of McGinty’s handling of the Rice grand jury, his hiring of non-legal staffing and resulting budget increases, his inability to maintain an early disposition program due to conflicts with judges.  O’Malley pledges to take specific steps to improve the relationship between the African-American Community and the prosecutor’s office, to restore the Justice System Reform effort, and to refer police use of force cases to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office (a point on which the candidates agree).

The League also gave McGinty three stars.  He gained a seat on the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas bench in 1993.  He was continuously re-elected until his resignation in 2011 to run for County Prosecutor.  He started his career as a probation officer and also served as an Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.  He has a history as an aggressive prosecutor and a judicial reformer, and he is a student and scholar of criminal justice and judicial administration. 

In his interview and in his questionnaire responses, he gave detailed explanations for the procedural decisions made throughout the Rice grand jury proceedings.  He also provided detailed summaries of the office’s successes.  He has driven policies that have reduced over-charging, brought data-driven analysis to measure the office’s performance, paid close attention to public corruption, continued to process a back-log of rape test kits, and prevented assistant prosecutors from simultaneously holding elected office.  He supports the decisions that have impacted an enlarged budget and, in response to media accusations that his personality was at fault, explains the challenges involved in the Judicial Reform Process, where again he seeks to use data-driven performance indicators to the work of the Courts.

A locally historic election in 2012 placed the office of County Prosecutor in the path of nationally historic events.  Many voters may make their decisions solely on how McGinty handled the Rice grand jury proceedings.  Our panel split evenly on the choice between change and the status quo and for that reason we are not stating a preference between the two candidates. Though there is still time for an independent candidate to throw his or her hat into the ring, it is most likely that the March 15 primary vote—an undercard match due to the presidential primaries—will determine who takes office in January 2017.

Our goal is to educate those voters through research, ratings, and the statement of a preference so each voter can make an educated decision in this and other elections.  While we are sure this information will be helpful, we welcome and encourage you to review our research, do your own research, and come to an educated decision as you cast your vote for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.