Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has agreed to pay its former IT chief $245,000 to settle a lawsuit in which he accused the local government of denying him paid leave during a recent criminal investigation.
The Cuyahoga County Council voted in a split decision Tuesday to approve the settlement for Scot Rourke, who spent more than a year-and-a-half on unpaid leave after he was named in several subpoenas stemming from a corruption probe led by the Ohio attorney general’s office. Among accusations against other officials, the subpoenas suggested that Rourke, the former chief executive of the Cleveland-based technology nonprofit OneCommunity, had recommended an “excessive payment” to his former employer.
In a January letter, Cuyahoga County President Pernell Jones said that he supported the settlement because Rourke was never charged with a crime during the investigation and the county’s auditor eventually determined that the county had not overpaid OneCommunity.
But four members of the 11-person council voted against the settlement, and even some of those voting in favor did so reluctantly, with Council Vice President Cheryl Stephens calling it the “best option in a bad situation.”
“I find the whole thing wrong for our constituents,” Stephens said. “We’re paying someone who did nothing for two years.”
Rourke, who was suspended for 19 months before being fired in October 2019, released a statement through his lawyer.
“After three years of waiting, I am pleased this chapter is finally closed,” his statement read. “However, I remain disappointed that I was not able to achieve the ambitious goals that initially attracted me to working for Cuyahoga County government.”
Rourke was hired by the county, which contains Cleveland, in December 2015 as its chief information and transformation officer, soon planning a major wireless internet initiative for the county that would have used OneCommunity’s fiber optic network. The Knight Foundation, along with the University of Akron, provided $5 million for the project before shutting down its local chapter after the deal unraveled.