Another retaliation lawsuit filed against embattled city manager

Another retaliation lawsuit filed against embattled city manager

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A former city employee and her husband, who still works for the city, accuse City Manager Harry Black of retaliation - the fifth such allegation outlined in a lawsuit by a city employee or former one against the city and its Cincinnati's top administrator in recent months.

It also comes as confusion and drama has erupted over his potential resignation.

The latest suit involves employee Elizabeth Christenson, who worked in the city's 911 center until she resigned last month. She insisted a memo she wrote be included as part of her exit interview, the document shows.

Christenson was critical of Black's mismanagement of the 911 center and described it  as so poor it  "poses a threat" to public safety.

Cincinnati Organized and Dedicated Employees, which represents Christenson and her husband, Blake, a senior crime analyst, filed the federal lawsuit alleging First Amendment retaliation on their behalf Tuesday.

The suit alleges that after Black learned of the memo, he halted a promotion for Blake Christenson days before final approval.

Police Division Manager Amity Bishop emailed Assistant Police Chief Teresa Theetge wrote, "... this came down directly from the city manager," according to the suit.

It also alleges: "This is part of a pattern and practice of unlawful and unconstitutional retaliation and intimidation of the city employees."

The lawsuit seeks back pay and benefits for Christenson's husband and compensatory damages for both.

Four other city employees, including a veteran police captain, sued Black and the city last year. The cases are all pending, and city attorneys have denied the allegations in court records. A sixth lawsuit from a former Cincinnati police officer fighting to get his job back names the city and police department, alleging the same pattern.

Christenson's memo details a December 2016 meeting in which Black "angrily lashed out" at her when she raised concerns about operations at the 911 center and then threatened the jobs of people working on the project.

Later, when talking to Black, she described another "horribly uncomfortable" incident. She wrote that Black asked if he could give her a hug, which she said she agreed to because she didn't know what else to do.

"Because Mr. Black had threatened my job and the jobs of others, I was deeply afraid of what could happen if I said anything officially," Christenson wrote in the memo to explain why 16 months passed without her saying anything.

Black didn't know about the memo immediately, and when he found out about it, he was angry, the lawsuit alleges.

In a statement after the memo was released to the media, Black maintained his intentions were paternalistic.

"If I made her feel disrespected, I sincerely apologize as this was in no way the intent," he wrote.

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