Dueling statements create confusion over city manager's status

Dueling statements create confusion over city manager's status (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Dueling statements from Cincinnati’s mayor and city manager on the latter’s status with the city created more confusion Tuesday in a situation that’s already murky.

Mayor John Cranley sent out a statement just before 5 p.m. Tuesday that stated: "The Mayor and City Manager had reached an agreement in principle for the City manager to exit City service.” Less than an hour later, city manager Harry Black sent a statement of his own saying that wasn’t true and that he’s “currently in communication with the Mayor and Council... and wants to serve as city manager as long as the Mayor and Council will have me.”

“What I have learned is that I can't trust much of what John Cranley has to say so if John says it's raining I gotta go look and see,” said council member Wendell Young, who has voiced support for Black. "The reality is John can offer whatever he wants. That's the way he bullies people but at the end of the day no matter what he offers Harry, if it's anything more than what he has coming, council will have to approve that."

Young said Black’s contract calls for an eight-month severance package. Cranley offered Black a two-year severance package, according to sources with knowledge of it. Council member Chris Seelbach tweeted Tuesday that Cranley doesn't have the five votes on council needed to fire Black or approve a two-year severance package.

"This is a crazy situation and it sounds to me like there was believed to be an agreement,” said Pete Witte, a Price Hill community leader and friend of Cranley. Witte said he believes it may be in the best interest of the city at this point for Black to leave.

‘My only concern now is what's the climate and the relationship inside city hall having this kind of rancor occur between the top two people running the city,” Witte said.

Earlier in the day, before the dueling statements on Black’s future were released, council member Tamaya Dennard said she didn't want Black to leave.

"I don't always agree with Harry Black and I want that to be known but I support him 100%,” said Dennard.

Council member Amy Murray said Tuesday she was waiting for more information before commenting.

Sources said the relationship between Black and Cranley had not been good for several months. It reached a boiling point last week when Black supported the ouster of assistant police chief Dave Bailey.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley demanded the resignation of the city manager last Friday after a controversy erupted surrounding the ouster of the city’s most senior assistant police chief, according to sources at City Hall.

"The City and City Manager are working towards a mutually agreed upon departure agreement that will require Council approval," said the statement from the Mayor's office. "The Mayor and Manager expect that Council will act on this matter within one week. We believe that the City’s law department will present a settlement document to Council by Monday, March 19th."

The following is a statement from Mayor Cranley on Black's agreement:

Over the last 3.5 years it has been my pleasure to work collaboratively with Mr. Black in our efforts to stabilize the City’s finances;—including the passage of three structurally balanced budgets and an upgraded credit rating—improve our ability to deliver basics services through the Office of Performance and Data Analytics; and get our roads back to good through infrastructure investments. Assuming Council approves, I wish Mr. Black the best of luck in his future endeavors and I thank him for his service to the City of Cincinnati.

Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey accepted a buyout last Friday, a day after he was given an ultimatum to resign or be fired. It came after an audit of police overtime was leaked to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

That audit revealed Captain Bridget Bardua received more than $82,000 in overtime in one year. A day before the audit was leaked, Capt. Bardua filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint claiming Bailey was discriminating against her because she was a woman and supported Chief Isaac.

It’s not clear who leaked the audit, but Bailey denied doing so.

Chief Isaac sought to fire Bailey as City Manager Harry Black claimed there was a “rogue element of corruption” in the police department. Black supported the firing.

On Friday afternoon, sources said Mayor Cranley asked Black to resign during a meeting. Black’s office would not comment Friday about whether he was considering resigning or discussing some type of severance package.

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