Cincinnati’s City Hall standoff in week 4 amid racial unease

By Dan Sewell - Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) — As the City Hall turns….

A real-life soap opera in the city where consumer products maker Procter & Gamble helped pioneer the daily dramas is in its fourth week. There’s a stalemate over the Cincinnati mayor’s effort to oust the city manager in what an NAACP official calls “a self-inflicted crisis,” one that has racial overtones in an Ohio city with a troubled past.

Here’s a glance and how it has unfolded and what could be ahead as the issue heads back to the city council Wednesday:


A black police captain filed a sexual discrimination complaint, saying she was singled out in an internal audit of overtime practices. The Cincinnati Enquirer on March 6 published details from the audit, showing she received overtime worth some $80,000 in 2017. That was followed by complaints by City Manager Harry Black of a “rogue element” in the police department trying to undermine him and Chief Eliot Isaac. Both are black men.

Black then moved to oust Assistant Chief Dave Bailey, who is white. Negotiations led to a buyout of some $400,000 … and were followed by Mayor John Cranley’s March 9 request that Black resign. Cranley brought Black to Cincinnati from Baltimore city government in 2014.

In Cincinnati, the manager runs the city’s day-to-day operations. The mayor, who was elected to his second term last November, has some executive powers but can’t fire the city manager without majority backing of council.


Black said he wasn’t going anywhere, leading to negotiations and Cranley’s statement March 13 that Black had agreed to leave. Black responded, not yet.

Then Cranley pledged to bring witnesses before council to detail what Cranley called a pattern of retaliatory and unprofessional behavior.

An example: a strip club visit by Black and three city police officers during a city business trip to Denver two years ago. Black said it was during his private time.

Black on March 17 urged council to end painful “tumult and chaos” by approving a severance package of some $423,000, the equivalent of some 18 months of compensation.

However, five of nine council members have balked at that, and some suggest hiring an outside counsel to independently evaluate Black’s performance.

Cranley pulled the issue from council’s March 21 agenda after one councilman was absent. It could come to a head at Wednesday afternoon’s meeting.


Cincinnati has been nationally recognized for urban revitalization and racial progress, and it’s the economic heart of a metro area of more than 2 million people that includes northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana besides southwestern Ohio.

While the standoff appears mainly to be a power struggle between two strong-willed government leaders, the racial elements trouble some people in the community. Cranley is white.

Joe Mallory, NAACP chapter vice president, called the City Hall situation “a self-inflicted crisis,” and urged rejection of the buyout and an end to Cranley’s “public takedown” of Black.

Some community leaders have said the standoff threatens efforts to update and “refresh” a collaborative agreement that led to police reforms after 2001 race riots following the fatal police shooting of a black man.

Meanwhile, it’s also raised discussion of whether voters should have the ability to recall the mayor.

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By Dan Sewell

Associated Press