CPD captain adds mayor to lawsuit, alleges smear campaign

(FOX19 NOW/File)
(FOX19 NOW/File)
Updated: Oct. 4, 2017 at 2:34 PM EDT
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City Manager Harry Black (FOX19 NOW/file)
City Manager Harry Black (FOX19 NOW/file)
Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (FOX19 NOW/file
Cincinnati Police Captain Jeff Butler (FOX19 NOW/file

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A veteran Cincinnati police captain added Mayor John Cranley to a federal lawsuit Wednesday he recently filed against the city manager and assistant city manager, alleging he is the victim of a "smear campaign."

Captain Jeff Butler sued last month, claiming he was denied a promotion after he complained about possible misuse of state tax funds.

Since then, the lawsuit alleges, Cranley and City Manager Harry Black have intentionally made false statements about him and are leading a 'concerted public campaign to demonize Captain (Jeff) Butler as a racist, a bad cop and someone whose lawsuit was designed to undermine the contractual relationship between the City of Cincinnati and minority owned business enterprises."

Butler, an officer since 1986, was accused in 2004 of using a racial slur in 1999. It was never proven.

He is seeking damages and lost pay.

None of the accusations are true, said Butler's lawyer, Brian Gillan.

"Unfortunately it gave rise to defamation and civil conspiracy. The city administration is entitled to comment on the lawsuit, but they are not entitled to defame Captain Butler in response to the lawsuit. Actions have consequences and today's amended lawsuit is the direct result of the actions of the mayor and the city manager."

FOX19 NOW reached out to the mayor and Harry Black for comment.

A spokeswoman for Cranley promptly emailed a brief statement:

"This is a frivolous complaint and we are confident it will be dismissed," wrote Holly Stutz Smith.

City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething also issued a prepared statement:

"Today the City received an amended Complaint in Jeffrey Butler's attempt to use the courts to obtain a promotion he could not achieve through the City's Charter mandated selection process.  In the course of lawsuits against the City, it is common for Plaintiffs to add or amend claims, and the new Complaint adds little substance to the original lawsuit.

"As public officials, the City's elected representatives may comment and meet with constituents and the media, and a public official's statements about his/her official activities are generally entitled to immunity under federal law and the First Amendment.

"The law department will defend the additional claims against the City in the normal course of this lawsuit, which is an unfortunate waste of taxpayer resources."

Black has dismissed Butler's original lawsuit as "frivolous," calling  Butler a disgruntled employee who was unsuccessful in trying to become an assistant chief.

Butler's suit alleges Black is running city purchases through a company connected to his friend, abuses his power and misused Homeland Security grant money.

Butler was in charge of the city's 911 emergency communication center since January 3, 2016, but claims he was stripped of his managerial duties "with virtually no notice" on Jan. 1.

After he filed suit, the mayor, city manager and "other in the City Administration conspired to orchestrate a smear campaign against Captain Butler designed to distract the public and the media from the substance and merits of Captain Butler's lawsuit."

The suit alleges they "held closed door meetings at City Hall with prominent members of the African-American community wherein Defendants described Plaintiff Butler as a 'racist' and a 'bad cop' and someone whose federal lawsuit was intended to undermine the contracts between minority-owned business enterprises and the City of Cincinnati.

"In these meetings, Defendants also instructed various prominent members of the African-American community to make public statements consistent with the scurrilous accusations of Defendants had made privately to these individuals.

They also "arranged to have material delivered to numerous local media outlets purporting to establish that Captain Butler was a racist and a bad cop."

Butler's lawyer declined to let his client talk to FOX19 NOW Wednesday, but said he's working and hasn't missed a beat.

" He's out there doing his job every day. This doesn't bother him at all," Gillan said.

"When you make your living as a cop, having people speak poorly of you, it's not going to bother you," he said. " But that doesn't mean there isn't going to be consequences for the people doing it."

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