City Manager Harry Black calls police captain who sued him 'unhappy,' says his claims are frivolous

Posted at 3:12 PM, Sep 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-12 20:39:17-04

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black punched back at a police captain who sued him Tuesday, calling him "a disgruntled employee" and dismissing his claims as frivolous.

Capt. Jeffrey L. Butler alleged in a federal lawsuit that Black has a pattern of misusing city funds and abusing his power. The city manager runs city purchases through BFX, LLC, a company his friend owns, Butler alleged. He also claimed Black retaliated against him when he pointed out the city improperly used money for 911 operations and put it toward other government functions.

The retaliation, Butler alleges, came when Black wouldn't promote him to assistant police chief, even though his counterpart in the Cincinnati Fire Department received a promotion.

Assistant police chiefs are unclassified and exempted from the civil service process, City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething said -- so the city manager has ultimate hiring and firing power.

Through spokesman Rocky Merz, Black said the lawsuit boils down to a personnel matter. He called Butler "an unhappy employee" and said he's disappointed with the lawsuit.

At a public event Tuesday afternoon, he said Butler was "disgruntled" over not getting a promotion.

"Everything that we do from a procurement standpoint is above-board," Black said. He also said the man Butler claims is his close friend, Al Foxx, no longer has any equity interest in BFX.

"I would say that this person or these persons don't understand necessarily what kind of a contract it is, or what the functionality of the contract is -- is what I surmise as being the issue," Black said. "There's confusion on their part."

Black said some friction may stem from his work to turn around the city's 911 center after years of problems; just last month, he announced the city was dumping a telecommunications subcontractor because it was unreliable.

"As you know, when you're doing a turnaround of any sort -- when you're making changes, significant changes -- not everybody's going to like it. Not everybody's going to be comfortable with it," Black said.

At a mayoral debate Tuesday, Mayor John Cranley said he hadn't seen the lawsuit yet. His opponent, Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, called the allegations "shocking" and said she'd urge City Council to begin an investigation immediately.

"We will -- of course, it's just, right now, an allegation -- and so we want to make sure we're careful not to place blame until we know what's happened," Simpson said. "But we will fully investigate."