County prosecutor on bribery accusations against mayor: 'This is going nowhere'

City council member plans to file bribery charges against mayor
Updated: Mar. 27, 2018 at 7:01 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Earlier this year, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley asked City Manager Harry Black to quit. Since that happened, things have been turbulent at City Hall.

Part of that chaos has been Cranley not being able to come up with enough votes within City Council to approve a buyout package for Black.

RELATED | Lacking support, mayor postpones vote on city manager resignation deal

The chaos continued Tuesday when City Council member Wendell Young claimed a phone call he received from Cranley flirted with bribery as the mayor was "shopping around to various members of the City Council for their vote." Young said he planned to file a complaint against the mayor Wednesday with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

"This call troubled me greatly," said Young.

Shortly after Young's statement was released, Cranley's spokesperson Holly Stutz Smith responded, saying she was confident this will be dismissed. (Both statements can be read in their entirety at the bottom of this story.)

"This is nothing more than another in a long line of silly political stunts offered up by Councilman Young," she said.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters also weighed in Tuesday, saying that after reading Young's letter he could not find anything that could be described as a crime.

"This is going nowhere," he said.

The standoff between Cranley and Black is now in its fourth week, the Associated Press reports.


The mayor asked Black to quit after :

  • he forced out the second highest-ranking official in the Cincinnati Police Department and entered into an estimated $400,000 separation agreement without advance warning to the mayor or council.
  • Black said a "rogue element" was "corrupt" within the Cincinnati Police Department in an attempt to undermine Chief Eliot Isaac. He also alleged racism in the top police ranks against himself and the chief because they are African-American. He called for federal prosecutors to investigate.

Five days after the mayor asked Black to leave, Cranley explained why -- he said the city manager he hired four years ago had a pattern of unprofessional behavior including:

  • taking employees into a strip club during an out-of-town business trip and then making other employees, including the female city solicitor, uncomfortable by talking about it during a taxi cab ride.
  • making late-night, threatening phone calls to employees
  • retaliating against employees who raise concerns. Five have sued the city and city manager in recent months

The buyout

Specifically, the buyout would require the city to:

  • Pay Black $261,283 and his unused sick and vacation time within two weeks of March 17, the date the agreement was signed
  • Pay Black another $27,080 a month for six consecutive months, beginning May 1
  • Pay $9,599 to Black's retirement fund
  • Give Black his laptop and cell phone
  • Give Black a positive letter of recommendation
  • Not disparage Black (And Black cannot disparage Cranley)
  • Pay Black's attorney up to $6,000 for fees from working on the settlement
  • Officially end his employment Wednesday

Young's statement:

Last Saturday, I received a call from Mayor John Cranley regarding the severance package he has been shopping around to various members of the city council for their vote. Mayor Cranley asked me what I wanted from him for my vote in supporting his ordinance that would pay the city Manager over $400,000.00. I told him absolutely nothing and hung up.

This call troubled me greatly as I have worked in law enforcement and felt that there was something wrong with his offer. Yesterday, I called the Ohio Ethics Commission about the call. After waiting for ten minutes, the investigator suggested that I go to law enforcement- not the Ethics Commission- as he felt there is a potential bribery case against the Mayor.

Based on the Ethics investigator's recommendation, tomorrow, I will head to the U.S. Attorney's Office where I will be filing a complaint against Mayor John Cranley, for a possible bribery charge. Because of the sensitivity of this matter, I will have nothing to say until I have met with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Statement from the mayor's spokesperson:

This is nothing more than another in a long line of silly political stunts offered up by Councilman Young. Like the other frivolous suit Councilman Young filed against the Mayor (SERB complaint 2016), we're confident this one will be dismissed. It's disappointing that Councilman Young continues to put his personal animosity and political agenda ahead of doing what is best for the city. But, given that he has spent over four years fighting against instead of working with the mayor to move our city forward, we're not surprised that he can't tell the difference between an offer to collaborate and a bribe.

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