Cincinnati police leaders accused of sexual discrimination, attempt to oust chief

Cincinnati police leaders accused of sexual discrimination, attempt to oust chief
(FOX19 NOW file)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The commander of one of Cincinnati's police districts is charging the police department with discrimination, harassment, and more.

Captain Bridget Bardua, the commander of District 5, says white men in the department are discriminating against her because she's a woman and because she supports "our African-American police of chief" Eliot Isaac, according to documents obtained by FOX19 NOW.

District 5 police officer Melissa Cummins is also making the same claim.

The two filed complaints Monday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Bardua alleges top police officials - two assistant police chiefs and a captain - are targeting her and her staff as part of a larger attempt to to force Isaac out.

Issac released a statement Monday in response to the complaints:

I respect the rights of our employees to voice their concerns and welcome the input from the U.S. EEOC, should they determine an investigation is warranted.  It is my hope that we can work through differences and resolve issues in a manner that best serves our employees and ultimately the public.  The Cincinnati Police Department is an Equal Opportunity Employer and we value all of our employees and the contributions they make everyday to keep our City safe.

A city spokesman, Rocky Merz, wrote in an email Tuesday to FOX19 NOW the city typically refers the investigation of such complaints to the EEOC when it becomes involved, as in this case.

Merz offered no other comment.

The complaints place blame with two assistant chiefs, David Bailey and Paul Neudigate, and Captain Jeff Butler, who commands the inspection section of the police department.

"I have not been able to sleep and the stress of the relentless surveillance and review is compromising my health," Bardua's complaint states. "I am being treated differently than any other Commander in the Department and my staff is as well."

Neudigate and a police spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Butler referred us to his lawyer, Brian Gillan, who sent us a statement in defense of both Butler and Bailey:

"Captain Butler and Lt. Col. Bailey emphatically deny the allegations made in the EEOC charge filed by Capt. Bardua.  They welcome the EEOC investigation, which they are confident will end in dismissal of her charge.  Captain Butler has always been a friend and supporter of Captain Bardua, and in fact helped her study for her Captain's exam.  The allegation in her March 5 letter to the EEOC claiming that Capt. Butler and Lt. Col. Bailey are trying to force out Chief Isaac is also false and emphatically denied.  Capt. Butler and Lt. Col. Bailey have the highest regard for Chief Isaac, and have always acted in a way that is consistent with the esteem in which they hold Chief Isaac.  They have been loyal supporters of Chief Isaac's leadership of the department."

In her complaint, Bardua writes that problems with her leadership of District 5 revolve on her supervision of the district's Neighborhood Liaison Unit.

It has undergone an audit over recordkeeping, she wrote, and other practices acceptable for at least a decade before she took over the district. She said she runs it similar to previous captains, Bailey and Neudigate.

"Upon Captain Bardua's appointment, the rules began to be applied differently," her complaint states. "Captain Bardua and her staff should not be subjected to the continued pattern of discrimination, harassment, inconsistent management practices, and deviation from past practice."

While other district commanders received prior notice about about bookkeeping problems so they could correct them without serious consequences, she received no warning, her complaint states.

She also accused police officials of delaying job transfers she had requested and said officers working for her in District 5 have been subject to questioning by internal investigators about Bardua's leadership.

"There is a continued harassment of subordinate personnel under Captain Bardua's command," her complaint reads.

Then, last month, Bardua said Butler unexpectedly pulled into the driveway of her home at 10:15 p.m. to discuss an audit of District 5 overtime.

He told her he was upset about it, according to the complaint.

Butler told Bardua, according to the complaint, "'You know things are getting bad.' "Butler stated 'He (meaning the police chief) will not survive this. It's either you or him.' Captain Bardua took that to mean that either she or the Chief was getting terminated."

The EEOC complaints filed Monday are the latest controversy with Cincinnati police:

  • District 5 police station in Clifton closed to the public last fall amid concern over health and working conditions in the 61-year-old Ludlow Avenue building.  Several employees have been moved to other police facilities, and all patrol officers are to be relocated to a temporary location in College Hill by month's end until a new headquarters is available, city records show. A federal review of the facility at the city's request concluded no link between it and officers and others who work there being diagnosed with cancer.
  • The city and police department's management of the city's emergency communications center where 911 calls are routed in life-or-death situations came under fire last week when a former city employee's memo criticizing it became public. It's so mismanaged it "poses a threat" to public safety, the employee's lengthy and, at times, explosive memo states.
  • Butler filed a federal lawsuit after the city manager denied him a promotion, claiming Black is running city purchases through a company run by one of Black's friends. Butler also claims Black misused federal Homeland Security grant money. Butler has since added the mayor to the lawsuit, alleging he is the victim of a "smear campaign." Black has said the lawsuit is frivolous and dismissed Butler as a disgruntled employee who unsuccessfully tried to be an assistant chief.
  • A former police officer, Jason Cotterman, alleged in a federal lawsuit he filed last year the police department 'has a policy of punishing, reprimanding and otherwise retaliating against officers that do not toe the line and go along with" its public version of events. He alleges the city, aided by the police department, maliciously prosecuted him in a 2015 criminal case related to a fellow officer's off duty, single vehicle crash. He was acquitted in a March 2016 trial but lost his job in a medical separation two months later.
  • Isaac was appointed police chief in September 2015 and permanently named to the job three months later after Black fired then-Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell amid what Black described as extensive issues that ultimately created a "toxic" work environment within the agency. In August 2016, however, Black and a city attorney quietly signed a $250,000 settlement with Blackwell that changed his termination status to resignation instead of firing without notifying City Council. Blackwell is not permitted to discuss the settlement or criticize the city. His badge and two service weapons were returned.
  • An audit released in March 2016 found problems with the way Cincinnati police issued overtime for officers. According to the report, between July of 2014 and September of 2015, more than half of all overtime requests weren't approved or verified correctly. The annual overtime budget for the department is nearly $6.5 million. CPD has agreed to overhaul the way it reports overtime to make improvements.

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