Willie Carden withdraws from consideration as next Cincinnati city manager

Amid scrutiny, parks chief cites family concerns

CINCINNATI -- Just nine days after his nomination was announced, Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden Jr. has withdrawn his name from consideration as city manager.

Carden informed Mayor John Cranley of his decision Friday morning.

“After consulting with my family, we have come to the personal, private decision that it is best for me to remain as the director of the Parks Department,” Carden said in a prepared statement.

“John Cranley is going to be a great mayor and this is a difficult decision for me,” Carden added. “But, it’s simply about what is best for me and my family.  As a personal matter, I would ask that you respect our family’s privacy.”

Cranley, who announced Carden’s nomination Nov. 27 in a splashy press conference at Krohn Conservatory, said he was saddened by the decision but understood that family considerations take precedence.

"I am disappointed that Willie Carden won’t be our next city manager,” Cranley said. “He would have done a phenomenal job. But, I respect his family’s decision and I am confident that we will find a great city manager who will help us move Cincinnati forward.”

Cranley said a nationwide search for qualified city manager candidates would now occur.

Assistant City Manager Scott Stiles, who has been performing the manager’s duties since Dec. 1, has been formally named interim city manager until the search is completed and the mayor and City Council agree on the person to hire.

Carden, 53, a lifelong Cincinnatian and 27-year city employee, has been Cincinnati parks director since April 2000.

Since his nomination was announced, however, he has come under increased scrutiny and criticism.

Some residents didn’t like that Carden planned to continue living in Colerain Township and seek an exemption to the rule requiring city residency.

Also, it’s widely believed his family didn’t like the attention given to a previous problem involving Carden’s bonuses for his work managing the parks system.

It was recently revealed Carden could have potentially faced criminal prosecution for improperly taking $61,000 in bonuses from a foundation he controlled as parks director, the Ohio Ethics Commission determined in May.

But the commission permitted Carden and another park board employee who took $37,000 in bonuses to return half of the payments and prevent the matter from being turned over to a prosecutor.

According to the commission report, Carden and Marijane Klug rescued the failing fundraising efforts of the non-profit Cincinnati Parks Foundation. Out of gratitude, the foundation board rewarded them with annual bonuses.

Carden had planned to hire Klug as his executive assistant, if he was confirmed as city manager.

Klug, who lives in Delhi Township, also would’ve needed an exemption to the city’s residency requirement.

Additionally, Klug is a Delhi Township trustee. Because city rules prohibit employees from holding elective office, Klug had planned to resign from the position.

The city manager oversees daily operations of municipal government and a 5,600-member workforce. The manager leads 17 city departments.

The mayor and City Council determine policies and set direction for the city through legislative measures, but the execution of policy is the city manager’s responsibility.

Under Cincinnati’s form of government, although the mayor can suggest candidates for the city manager’s job, the final decision is left up to City Council. At least five members of the nine-member group must approve the choice before the person may be hired.


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