CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The night before Mayor John Cranley asked then-City Manager Harry Black to resign last month, setting off six weeks of City Hall drama, Black threw down the gauntlet in a late night, profanity-laced phone call to the mayor, emails released Tuesday show.
Black, who resigned Saturday, unleashed a tirade of "personal attacks, conspiracy theories and outrageous threats an outlandish claims, declaring: 'I f--- hate you and city council' and "If I f---ing go, you will f---ing pay me!" Cranley wrote.
The mayor outlined the stunning allegations in two emails titled "atty client privilege" that sent from his private, not city, account at 12:30 a.m. and 7:49 a.m. on March 9. They went to the private email accounts of Council Members Amy Murray, Greg Landsman, David Mann and Chris Smitherman and were copied to City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething's private email.
"I am writing to share with you a very disturbing phone call I just received from city manager Harry Black," Cranley wrote. "Because of its very sensitive nature, I am only sharing with you for now because I trust you can keep this confidential until we can decide what to do and how to do it - I need your advice.
"We need to talk about this. And we need to discuss how to share it with the rest of our colleagues."
In a second email, after Cranley consulted Smitherman, he provided them with more information, quoting the city manager on the call:
"Here is some of the things he said - sorry for the profanity," the mayor wrote:
- "You are (a) f---ing bad person, you are f---ing corrupt and I will tell the world you are f---ing corrupt."
- "I don't turn the f---ing cheek, I f---ing hit back."
- "I will f---ing come after you and f---ing Smitherman."
- "I f---ing hate you and city council."
- "If I f---ing go, you will f---ing pay me!"
- "I'm not f---ing going anywhere as long as I got 5 f---ing votes."
- "Things are going to be very f---ing different, I'm going to f---ing cut you out."
- "Going forward, I will oppose every f---ing economic development deal."
Cranley and Black worked hand-in-hand for a couple years after Cranley hired Black in 2014, but the emails show how deeply fractured their relationship had become by last month.
Cranley did not comment Tuesday on the emails, and his spokeswoman did not respond when asked for comments.
Black could not be reached for comment. The voice mail on his cell phone is full, preventing callers from leaving messages.
When the two privately spoke in that late night phone call last month, Black had contacted the mayor to discuss a "push back" on the $400,000 agreement with Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey to leave the department, the email shows.
Earlier that day, Black had ousted Bailey. The development came about 24 hours after Black called for federal prosecutors to investigate what he described as a "rogue element" corrupting the police department and undermining the police chief's authority.
Black also claimed some insubordinate police employees don't want to work with him and Police Chief Eliot Isaac because they are African-American.
The city manager and police chief had become upset about leaks of two confidential police documents to the media: a draft report on police overtime that found "intentional actions to maximize compensation, bad oversight and confusion about police and a memo that revealed two police officers were under internal investigation related to off-duty details in which they were paid but may not have entirely worked.
Cranley opposed Black's decision to push out Bailey, a 31-year police veteran with the department. He wrote in another email he wished Bailey and the chief "could work this out."
So now due to this "push back" on Bailey's exit agreement, Black told Cranley in the late night phone call, according to the email, Black would have to fire Bailey in the morning.
"I said that was his call," the mayor wrote to the four council members and the city solicitor, "that I had already advised to try to work it out between Bailey and Isaac, but if he fires him he should have "just cause" because if not, the city will be sued and could lose big time."
Black told the mayor the law department was making him do either a buyout or fire, according to the email.
Cranley said he reminded Black that Black had told him earlier in the day getting rid of Bailey was the police chief's idea. He also wrote that he reminded Black that Black had showed him a document the chief signed outlining his concerns with Bailey. And, Black had agreed and was making the decision as city manager.
"I told him 'The Law department is doing what (Black) instructed but aren't making him do anything. I repeated that 'it is your call, but you know what I recommend.'"
Around that time, the mayor wrote, "Harry turned extremely nasty and engaged in about 8 minutes of profanity laced personal attacks, conspiracy theories and outrageous threats and outlandish claims."
Black blamed the mayor, saying he "caused the situation" with Bailey by introducing a pay raise increase in 2016 for city workers "and that led to the need to fire Bailey," according to the email.
Cranley wrote that he told Black he was proud of the move and a super majority of city council had agreed with him and that's how the system worked under the current form of city government.
But Black "said again that started the need to fire Bailey, and he would tell the whole world," Cranley wrote. "I said 'please do. It makes no sense.'"
Then Black started swearing, "using the 'f' word about every third word," and he accuse Cranley and Smitherman of "setting him up."
The phone call went even further downhill from there, the mayor wrote, with the now-former city manager declaring he "was coming after me, there was nothing I could do to stop him as long as he has 5 votes and that he was going to run the city by leaving me out. He also expressed deep dislike for city council and me."
After a few minutes, the mayor said, he told Black the call was "totally out of line and that I was finished with it. I hung up."
The mayor wrote that he had heard rumors over the past few years occasionally of late night, abusive calls from Black to employees and citizens. He confronted Black and told him to stop. Each time, he promised he would.
Last fall, the police union president Sgt. Dan Hils filed a police report in Loveland after Black called him at 11:42 p.m. on Oct. 27. Hils said he felt Black, who used profanities and interrupted him, sounded as though he was drunk, was being "a bully" and tried to intimidate and harass him.
Hils had taped the call and released the recording to the media.
At the time, the mayor said he had no plans to fire the city manager over the call to the police union leader - or as lawsuits piled up against Black by former and current employees alleging abuse of power.
But this time, Cranley wrote, Black went too far.
""What worries me the most is that at no time during tonight's call did I hear a concern for doing what is right for the city. Instead, he threatened me, Smitherman, threatened retaliation against the mayor in ways that would hinder city business and the right of the elected mayor to engage in public policy, condemned actions like my and council's decision on wages and somehow linked it to the Bailey situation."
Cranley closed out his email by saying the behavior Black subjected him to was "deeply unprofessional" and was concerned other employees, namely subordinates, had been "similarly abused."
"I am fine because I don't work for Harry, but I don't want any city employees to be treated like that," he wrote.
Several hours later, in an afternoon private meeting at City Hall, Cranley asked Black to resign.
Black refused, and a power struggle ensued between the two city leaders. Black insisted "I am here to stay" in remarks to reporters after a council meeting the following week, prompting the mayor to hold an impromptu press conference minutes later to announce he asked Black to leave over a pattern of "abusive" and "retaliatory" unprofessional behavior.
The mayor initially lacked enough council votes to fire the city manager since he refused to quit, but that changed last week when Landsman said he felt the city could not move on and focus on its priorities such as its trouble 911 center until a new top administrator was brought in.