Ohio official resigns ahead of federal report sparked by 6 inmate deaths

Cuyahoga County’s top jail official resigned late Wednesday, just months after six inmates died in a four-month span

By Courtney Astolfi
Advance Ohio Media

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cuyahoga County’s top jail official resigned late Wednesday, just months after six inmates died in a four-month span and days ahead of an expected report by the U.S. Marshals about how the jail is run.

Ken Mills’ resignation also came days after a strong rebuke from all 34 Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges who said Mills’ jail was unsafe and inmates were not getting proper medical or mental health care.

Mills was hired in 2014 to spearhead Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish’s plan for regionalizing the county’s local jails. He made $124,000 per year. Cuyahoga County spokeswoman Eliza Wing refused to say why Mills resigned.

“We appreciate Mr. Mills’ service to the county, especially his innovative initiatives to provide workforce training for inmates,” Budish said in a statement. “We wish him well. We will begin a search for his replacement immediately.”

The resignation was made in advance of an expected U.S. Marshals report about conditions inside the jail. Budish asked U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott to conduct a review of the jail after the sixth death. The marshals’ report is expected in the coming days.

When asked if Mills’ resignation is related to the deaths or the marshals’ findings, Wing said: “We’re going to talk to you about the marshals’ report as soon as we receive it and the changes we are going to start making.”

Along with the marshals’ review, the FBI is looking into possible civil rights violations of inmates at the jail.

Mills was in charge of day-to-day operations at the jail, where the six inmates died from June 22 to Oct. 2, including three by suicide.

A day after the most recent death, Cleveland Municipal Judge Michael Nelson said he would no longer send non-violent offenders to jail because it was unsafe.

This past week, all 34 Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges issued a letter that accused Budish’s jail administration of being indifferent to dangerous conditions at the jail.

The letter, written by Administrative Judge John J. Russo, said the judges can no longer rely on the word of jail administrators, who have promised that changes are being made to improve conditions at the jail.

The same day, the five Cuyahoga County Common Pleas judges who oversee the county’s mental-health docket wrote a letter to MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros alerting him to jail inmates’ failing to receive proper mental health care and medication. MetroHealth oversees medical operations in the county jail.

Two former MetroHealth nursing directors at the jail previously accused Mills of constantly interfering in the administration of healthcare at the facility. One, Marcus Harris, accused Mills of mismanagement, endangering medical staff and depriving inmates of proper care.

Another, Gary Brack, was fired after he spoke out against Mills at a Cuyahoga County Council meeting.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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