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Judge drops lawsuit by Cincinnati police sergeant who claimed retaliation

Posted: 1:56 PM, Sep 20, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-20 17:56:34Z

CINCINNATI - A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from a Cincinnati police sergeant who alleged retaliation over a complaint that officers’ medical records were posted online.

U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett granted the city’s motion on Wednesday to dismiss the lawsuit and its four claims against the city, Police Chief Eliot Isaac and former city manager Harry Black.

This is the second time in a month that a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a city employee who claimed retaliation from former City Manager Harry Black.

Police Sgt. Jeffrey Dunaway filed the lawsuit in November, alleging the city denied him a transfer out of District 5 after he complained that officers’ confidential medical histories were viewable online by almost any police employee.

Dunaway had been a Cincinnati police officer since 1993. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, but returned to work after surgery.

Afterward Dunaway learned of an internal police department website which had displayed his personal medical information.

In 2016, Dunaway raised the issue with higher-ranking officers. The reference to his own cancer was removed, but a reference to his surgery remained, according to his lawsuit.

Then Dunaway requested a transfer from District 5 to District 1. Some District 5 employees have complained about the condition of their headquarters and alleged the building was responsible for cases of cancer among current and former employees there.

After his transfer was denied, he filed a lawsuit alleging retaliation. But the judge dismissed all of Dunaway’s claims.

In a similar case, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black dismissed a lawsuit from a high-ranking fire official on Aug. 3.

In that case, Raffel Prophett, the District One chief in the Cincinnati Fire Department, sued the city and Black, alleging abuse of power as well as violating his rights to free speech and due process. A judge dismissed all claims, but Prophett filed an appeal.

In late 2017 and early 2018, six former and current city employees, including Prophett and Dunaway, filed federal lawsuits accusing the city and Black, and in some cases other department heads, of abusive behavior or retaliation.

The other cases are still pending. City lawyers have denied the allegations.

In August, Judge Black declined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Gary Colorez, a former supervisor at the city's department of public services. He alleges former department director Maraskeshia Smith and Harry Black fired him because he started digging into what he believed was widespread waste and fraud.

Brian Gillan, an attorney for Colorez, said he is taking Black's deposition in October for the case.

Black resigned in April, just minutes before Cincinnati City Council held a meeting intended to oust him.

City leaders announced on Sept. 7 that they would pay Black an additional $370,000 in an agreement that ends his threats to sue the city. The new deal makes Black's total buyout worth $544,000 in cash, plus benefits. In return for the lump-sum $370,000 payment, Black cannot sue the city and agrees to help the city defend itself in any lawsuits where Black is named.