Cincinnati Enquirer - Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley wants to hire an outside investigator to look into accusations of inappropriate behavior by City Manager Harry Black.
Cranley said in a statement Friday afternoon that he will ask council members next week to bring in a special counsel to oversee an investigation he hopes will end a bitter stalemate between the mayor and city manager.
Cranley has been trying for weeks to push out Black, but he doesn't have the five votes he needs on City Council to fire him or to approve an 18-month buyout of his contract.
The broken relationship between the two men has paralyzed City Hall at a time when Cincinnati is grappling with big issues, such as a tight budget and a still-unresolved question about where FC Cincinnati could build a stadium.
"The last several weeks have been very difficult," Cranley said in his statement Friday. "I sincerely wish things didn't come to this."
The idea of hiring an outside special counsel first was floated by Councilman Chris Seelbach two weeks ago. Cranley mentioned that proposal in his statement Friday and said he hoped he could work with Seelbach, a frequent Cranley critic, and other council members who have opposed his efforts to remove Black.
Seelbach could not immediately be reached. But his original proposal called for a special counsel to investigate the behavior and conduct of both Black and Cranley.
Cranley's statement makes no mention of an investigation that would extend beyond the accusations against Black.
Cranley gave no indication who the special counsel might be, how long the investigation could last or how much money it would cost city taxpayers.
Until his announcement Friday, Cranley had repeatedly said he intended to pursue a public hearing before council to air the grievances against Black. He said employees should be invited to testify without fear of retribution about their experiences with the city manager.
Black has been accused in five lawsuits of mistreating and retaliating against city employees who cross him, and Cranley has said he's aware of other allegations of misconduct.
"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," Cranley said. "The multitude of stories from various departments paint a picture that can't in good conscience be ignored."
He and some others have said the bad behavior includes late-night phone calls that the mayor describes as "offensive and unprofessional."
Black has said he is a strong personality who pushes his employees, but he has denied the accusations against him. He said some complaints are the result of tough stances he's taken in contract negotiations with employee unions.
Cranley asked Black to resign March 9, shortly after the city manager ousted Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey. Cranley, who previously had praised the city manager, cited a pattern of unprofessional behavior, including a visit with subordinates to a strip club during a work trip in Denver two years ago.
A council majority, however, continues to stand against the mayor and his efforts to get rid of Black.
The city manager agreed to leave with 18 months' pay, or about $423,000, in a deal he made with Cranley. The council majority, however, refused to accept that deal, saying it was a waste of taxpayer dollars.