( Cincinnati, OH ) - In a statement released Friday afternoon, Mayor John Cranley says he will introduce legislation next week to obtain an independent counsel to review City Manager Harry Black.
The Mayor's decision comes a day after City Council approved and 8 month severance package for Black. He has a month to decide if he accept the deal.
Read the Mayor's full statement below:
"The last several weeks have been very difficult. I sincerely wish things didn't come to this. While Harry Black has made meaningful contributions to our city, he has engaged over several years in an unacceptable pattern of inappropriate, abusive and retaliatory behavior. To the extent I knew about them, I have addressed these problems with Mr. Black on several occasions and asked him to stop. He promised me he would change. I believe in second and third chances, but change has not come. In fact, the behavior has gotten worse.
"I want to set the record straight that my conclusion that Mr. Black should no longer serve as our city manager was not because of his actions related to Dave Bailey and has nothing to do with Chief Isaac's leadership of the police department. As I have said, I support the Chief.
"Mr. Black’s long standing practice of calling myself and other City leaders enraged and late at night has always been troubling, but his March 8th call was of a different nature because Mr. Black followed through on threats to obstruct City business the next day. The phone call was offensive and unprofessional, but it is the fact that he then followed up on his threats with official action that I find inexcusable. In fact, I have since learned that Mr. Black made several other similarly abusive calls to City leaders that night and week. This behavior fits a pattern of retaliation that others have also alleged.
"It was these events—which were preceded by an ongoing pattern of behavior—that brought me to the conclusion that I could no longer support him as City Manager because it was clear that this inappropriate behavior would continue. I shared this with him on Friday, March 9th around 2 PM and offered to work out a negotiated settlement. Mr. Black made clear that he would not resign and to my shock in the days following he called individual meetings with department heads and other City employees to demand their personal loyalty. We are a nation of laws and city employees owe their loyalty to the city, its charter, and the public good, not to a person. Some courageous city employees refused and have retained lawyers because of fear for their jobs. The public, City council and I need to hear from these city employees and they need to know that city service is service to the city not to the city manager.
"Representatives from the four largest employee unions, representing more than 90% of city employees, have also informed me that they and some of their members have been mistreated and would like to share publicly their complaints.
"Combined, the multitude of stories from various departments paint a picture that can’t in good conscience be ignored.
"This was not a decision that was easily made but someone had to stand up for City employees, dozens of whom have now found the courage to come forward to share their negative experiences. As Councilman Seelbach stated, city workers should feel protected in sharing stories like these. I will work with him and city council to do so in the most dignified and transparent manner possible. Next week I will propose legislation to obtain an independent, third-party special counsel—as my colleagues suggested two weeks ago—that will conduct interviews and prepare a report for council and the public. I have and will continue to have ongoing conversations with council members about this legislation and will continue to work with them to create a final ordinance that meets their request, is fair and complies with the city charter.
"Again, I am deeply saddened by all of this. But the standard of behavior expected of city employees must also be modeled at the top.
"In the meantime, I will continue doing my job by introducing legislation on gun safety and moving the City forward. As part of my son's spring break, my family will be traveling to Memphis with leaders of AFSCME to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. On April 9-10, I will be traveling to Washington, DC with Police Chief Eliot Isaac for a conference on community policing sponsored by the US Conference of Mayors.
"Whatever lies ahead, I will always stand up for the truth and the citizens of Cincinnati."