CINCINNATI - Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman announced Thursday night that he'll cast a vote to fire City Manager Harry Black, saying Black hasn't done enough to fix the city's broken 911 system that contributed to the death of 16-year-old Kyle Plush last week.
That means there are five votes to end the manager's tumultuous tenure at the head of city operations. Already supporting Black's removal were Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and council members Amy Murray, Jeff Pastor and David Mann.
An official vote will still have to be taken.
"The dysfunction at City Hall clearly needs to end, and we have to be fully focused on fixing the issues with our 911 system," Landsman said. "We promised the public we would get this fixed. The manager is not fully focused on this, and we continue to be distracted by the ongoing saga surrounding the manager and mayor.
"A new city manager alone will not end the dysfunction or solve our 911 issues, but it's an important next step," he said.
Black said he will be at City Hall on Friday and will continue to do his job.
"I am disappointed the councilman feels this way," he told The Enquirer in response to Landsman's statement. "In addition to the tragic loss of Kyle Plush, an additional tragedy is the politicization of his death. The police department investigation is not yet concluded, so what do we base this on?"
Black, who publicly shared concerns Wednesday about Cranley's ethics on development deals, also asked: "Will we exert the same degree of zeal when it comes to rooting out government corruption?"
Growing tension between Black and Mayor John Cranley came to a head on March 9, when Cranley asked the city manager to resign, citing a pattern of unprofessional behavior.
Among the issues: lawsuits and other allegations that Black is retaliatory toward employees, Black going to a strip club with employees on a work trip two years ago, and inappropriate late-night calls about city business.
However, up until now, a majority of council members have supported Black, with some saying Cranley and Black need to learn how to work together. Three of those council members, Tamaya Dennard, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach, said they had no comment Thursday evening. P.G. Sittenfeld couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
African-American groups such as the local NAACP also backed Black.
Under the city charter, Cranley can't force outBlack unilaterally; he must have support from at least five council members.
Smitherman, Murray, Pastor, and Mann previously approved a severance worth roughly $423,000, an amount Black indicated he'd take. But Cranley hadn't been able to find a fifth vote. If he is fired, Black's contract says he gets eight months' pay, or about $174,000.
"I believe that his resignation would be much better than termination, but if forced to do so, I will terminate the city manager," Pastor said Thursday. "The ball is in his court."
Kyle died April 10 after becoming trapped his Honda Odessey outside of Seven Hills School. He twice called 911 pleading for help. Police responded to the first call but didn't find him. Something went wrong with the second call, in which Kyle gave details about his car.
The entire response is under investigation by both the police department and the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office. But the 911 center has been plagued with myriad problems for years. Black has issued 12 memos during his nearly four-year tenure, always promising fixes were underway.
During a Tuesday council committee hearing on the 911 center, several city employees cited problems with inadequate staffing, frequent leadership changes, and poor morale. Cranley said he didn't know how bad the problems were.
Landsman and others were visibly upset during the hearing. The Plush family attended the hearing and in a dramatic moment grew angry and stormed out of council chambers when Young mentioned money and said the city 911 workers and police had done the best the could. Young apologized the next day.
Landsman also called Thursday for the council to work on 911 center issues every Wednesday until the city has made "significant progress."
"It's the most important thing we'll do, and it has to be our top priority," Landsman said.