Cleveland paid $21,000 to consultants for two-day staff retreat

19 May 2022 2 min. read

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb last month held a two-day retreat for high-level cabinet members that cost the city more than $30,000, according to a report from CBS affiliate Cleveland 19.

The retreat, labeled a professional development and team building event, had a consulting price tag of $21,000, which was paid out to V. Randolph Brown Consulting. The consultancy – which delivers services in team effectiveness, leadership effectiveness, and DEI assessments, among others – provided two representatives as facilitators for the event.

The rest of the expenses went to facility rental, food and drinks, event setup, and staffing. The retreat was held on April 7-8 at Skylight Penthouse.

In a memo to staff obtained via a public records request by 19 News, Mayor Bibb expressed concern over his cabinet’s team effectiveness.

Cleveland paid $21,000 to consultants for two-day staff retreat

“However, we are not operating optimally as a team,” the memo stated. “While this is normal for any new leadership team, WE MUST course correct quickly to ensure we have a strong foundation for the months and years to come.”

Corporations are free to spend exorbitant amounts on team development sessions delivered in glitzy penthouse event spaces with expensive meals and drinks. It’s a different matter for public officials drawing from public coffers, who are expected to lean towards austerity. Fewer eyebrows would be raised by a reasonably priced training session delivered at a municipal facility. Citizens and taxpayers are right to question the value for money of such outlays, and whether they’re not a thin cover for a fancy couple of gratis evenings out.

“Professional development and training of a leadership team is a best practice in change management,” the mayor’s office fired back when 19 News asked for comment on the pricy retreat. “We chose a facilitator with experience leading retreats for teams similar to ours in peer cities. They also have a unique certification to administer the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) tool. Our team is receiving ongoing support and training from the tool.

“The value our team received from the retreat is worth the investment,” the statement continued. “We need to be thoughtful in our approach to transformational change.”