EEOC dismisses sex discrimination complaint against top Cincinnati police officials

EEOC dismisses sex discrimination complaint against top Cincinnati police officials
Cincinnati Police Captain Bridget Bardua (Photo: Cincinnati Police Department)

CINCINNATI, Ohio (FOX19) - A federal agency has dismissed a Cincinnati police captain’s complaint accusing top police officials of sexual discrimination, harassment and more, alleging they targeted her in an attempt to push out Chief Eliot Isaac.

Capt. Bridget Bardua filed the complaint with city officials and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in early 2018 while she served as the commander of District 5 police station.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws related to discrimination in the workplace.

The agency is “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes. This does not certify that the respondent is in compliance with the statues. No finding is made as to any other issues that might be construed as having been raised by this charge," a copy of their decision states.

Bardua’s complaint alleges she was singled out because she’s a woman and supports “our African-American chief of police.”

Police Officer Melissa Cummins, who also worked at the time in District 5, filed a complaint supporting Bardua’s accusations that recently was dismissed as well.

They claimed Assistant Police Chiefs Dave Bailey and Paul Neudigate and Captain Jeff Butler targeted them to create a “hostile work environment” and to force out the chief, Bardua and “any staff who supports him," her complaint states.

“They have targeted me and my staff to achieve this goal,” Bardua’s complaint reads.

They can file a lawsuit within 90 days or lose the right to sue based on the charge.

We have requests for comment to city and police officials, Bardua, her attorney, Cummins, the police chief and Neudigate.

A spokesperson for CPD declined comment.

Brian Gillan, an attorney for Bailey and Butler, said in a statement:

“We are gratified that the EEOC dismissed the frivolous discrimination charge brought by Capt. Bridget Bardua, just as it had previously dismissed the equally frivolous charge brought by Officer Melissa Cummins. We never doubted that this would be the outcome, since neither Bardua nor Cummins had a shred of evidence to support their claims.”

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac (Photo: Provided by the City of Cincinnati)
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac (Photo: Provided by the City of Cincinnati)

At the time the EEOC complaint was filed, Isaac said in a statement:

“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.”

Bardua’s complaint alleged District 5 underwent an audit over record keeping and other practices that had been acceptable for at least 10 years prior to her arrival as commander. She claimed she ran the unit the same way as previous captains, including Bailey and Neudigate.

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

Bardua said Butler unexpectedly pulled into the driveway of her home late at night in early 2018 to discuss an interdepartmental audit of District 5 overtime he conducted with his staff in the inspections section, one that was overseen by Bailey.

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 results of the audit disclosed CPD had significant overtime expenses, often as a result of inappropriate and illegal conduct, especially in the Police Department’s District 5, which was commanded by Capt. Bridget Bardua,” according to a lawsuit Butler’s lawsuit filed earlier this month in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

That claim echoes ones he also made in a federal lawsuit also pending.

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“The audit disclosed that the Police Department spent millions of dollars in overtime with at least 15 officers bringing in tens of thousands of dollars in overtime each month. An inordinate amount of overtime centered in District 5, commanded by Capt. Bardua. Capt. Bardua herself earned $82,723 in overtime during the audit period," his suit states.

Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (Photo: FOX19 NOW/file)
Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (Photo: FOX19 NOW/file)

Butler brought the concerns regarding overtime abuse directly to Bardua and and several times to the chief on several occasions, most recently on Feb. 10, 2018, according to the suit. She allegedly told him “'what happens on (our street) stays on (our street.'”)

The chief “did nothing," the suit states.

The audit became controversial after someone leaked a draft to the media in March 2018 - one day after news of Bardua’s EEOC complaint broke.

That set off a tumultuous chain of events that led to Bailey’s ouster a few later, and, ultimately, the city manager after he became embroiled in a public fight with the mayor when the mayor asked him to resign.

Allegations about criminal abuse of police overtime prompted the mayor to alert Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, asked the State Auditor’s Office to take a look at how tax dollars were spent on police overtime.

Before the audit began, a box of audit records belonging to Butler vanished within CPD. In fall 2018, he asked City Manager Patrick Duhaney for an outside administrative and/or criminal investigation.

Instead, CPD launched an internal investigation but that recently was found to be “not fair or objective,”a peer review panel concluded as they identified “several conflicts of interest.”

A written reprimand given to Butler related to it was overturned. However, the outcome of the case and the administrative charge of “Failure of Good Behavior” still stands, so Butler has asked a judge to throw it out.

The case goes before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman Thursday.

Cincinnati police concluded at the end of their internal investigation they were unable to determine the current location of the box of Butler’s missing audit records.

A review of Cincinnati police overtime by state auditors determined that while some officers took advantage of the system to maximize their compensation, no crime was committed, Deters announced earlier this year.

State auditors concluded in their report there was a “systematic” overtime problem in the police and fire departments and in public works.

And, overtime in the police department fell a stunning 47 percent last year once the audit began, indicating something was off, State Auditor Keith Faber told FOX19 NOW in an interview earlier this year.

State auditors recommended changes and improvements in how overtime wages and compensatory time is handled, changes the police department already had incorporated by the time the audit was released.

From left to right, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, then-City Manager Harry Black, then-Executive Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey and Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate at Bailey and Neudigate's February 2016 promotion ceremony.
From left to right, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, then-City Manager Harry Black, then-Executive Assistant Police Chief Dave Bailey and Assistant Police Chief Paul Neudigate at Bailey and Neudigate's February 2016 promotion ceremony. (Source: Provided by the City of Cincinnati)

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