Campaign Funds Pay for Security

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Campaign contributions in support of a school tax levy in Cleveland are being tapped to help pay for the personal security of the district's chief executive officer, after her home was burglarized and she said she received death threats.

The break-in at the home of Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Aug. 2-in which a CD player and some wine were stolen-took place amid rising tensions over the 72,000-student district's financial woes. This past summer, the system laid off some 1,000 employees to help close a $100 million gap in its $600 million annual budget.

Given that Ms. Byrd-Bennett also has received threatening phone calls, organizers of the local levy campaign said they would use campaign donations to pay for any overtime expenses created by the increased security for the schools chief through the Nov. 2 election.

"I might be overreacting, but when a person's house is broken into, and they get hate calls, I err on the side of caution," said Arnold Pinkney, the campaign's manager.

District officials said last week that Ms. Byrd-Bennett's security detail had racked up about $10,000 in overtime since the time of the break-in. In the days after the incident, the district ceo was provided round-the-clock protection.

Mr. Pinkney said he hopes to raise a total of $1.2 million for the levy campaign, which faces an uphill battle, given city's poor economy. The property-tax hike would generate $67 million for Cleveland's schools.

Although campaigns commonly budget for security, Mr. Pinkney acknowledged last week it was unusual for such an effort to pay to protect someone during times when that person is not specifically engaged in campaign work.

Ms. Byrd-Bennett has had a regular, district-paid security detail since she was hired in 1998. She had been shot at through her office window while in her previous job as a district administrator in New York City.

Vol. 24, Issue 04, Page 14

Published in Print: September 22, 2004, as Campaign Funds Pay for Security

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