CINCINNATI -- The city's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People threatened to take legal action against the "unhinged" and "irresponsible" Mayor John Cranley over his ongoing feud with City Manager Harry Black in a Thursday evening news conference.
"You need to call this thing what it is," activist Iris Rolley said. "This is another black leader being lynched in the middle of the city at hands of the mayor."
Cranley hopes to oust Black over what he claims is a long history of retaliatory, abusive and inappropriate behavior as city manager, including screaming at colleagues and visiting a topless bar on a taxpayer-funded trip.
Although he announced Tuesday he had reached an agreement for Black to leave his city post quietly, Black disputed the claim minutes later and said he hoped to remain as long as other city officials would have him.
Now, the conflict between Cranley and Black is scheduled to play out at a public hearing in from of Cincinnati City Council within the next several weeks. In the meantime, groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, NAACP and Sentinel Police Association are taking sides.
Many in the latter two groups, both of which are black advocacy organizations, said they viewed the situation as a racial issue and supported Black as a strong representative of their communities in city government. On Wednesday, Sentinel Police Association president Louis Arnold Sr. said he believed retaining Black was essential to helping the Collaborative Agreement refresh move forward.
"We will no longer stand by and watch another public execution of an African-American in our community without standing up to fight back," local NAACP vice president Joe Mallory said Thursday.
Cranley struck out at Black again earlier in the day, accusing the city manager of visiting a topless bar with coworkers on a taxpayer-funded trip and making a female employee uncomfortable with chatter about the visit the following morning.
NAACP president Robert Richardson Sr. said the mayor was "digging into personal issues, what happens when you are not at work," and retaliating toward Black for the firing of Assistant Police Chief David Bailey.
Black terminated Bailey after Police Chief Eliot Isaac complained the assistant chief had consistently undermined his authority and failed to protect confidential police information.
Cranley and Bailey are white; Black and Isaac are black. Before Bailey's firing, Black had accused a "rogue element" within the police department of being deliberately obstructive because they resented being managed by a pair of black men. (He never named any individual officer as a component of this element.)
NAACP leaders said Thursday they had considered moving for a recall of Cranley, but the city charter does not currently allow for a mayoral recall.
Cincinnati NAACP, Greater Cincinnati Chapter National Action Network, Black Agenda Cincinnati, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, Community Action Agency, Sentinels Police Association and the Cincinnati Black United Front issued the following joint statement:
"Mayor Cranley is attempting to usurp the power of the City Manager with reckless retribution in a very public way and it is divisive and unproductive, and downright embarrassing.
"Clearly, Mayor Cranley cannot accept that City Manager Harry Black made the decision to dismiss Assistant Chief Bailey, with the Charter powers vested exclusively to the City Manager. Mayor Cranley is retaliating with obvious vindictiveness.
"We believe the Mayor's behavior is emotional, irrational and irresponsible. When a similar scenario played out with Former Chief Blackwell, the Mayor went to great lengths to distance himself and credit the decision entirely to City Manager Black.
"In this scenario, a recommendation from Chief Eliot Isaac to separate Assistant Chief Bailey from service, with supporting documentation outlining insubordination. The City Manager supported his department head by dismissing Bailey.
"It is time for the Council majority to do what the Mayor is failing to do ... provide steady leadership and end the chaos being created by Mayor John Cranley.
"One thing that is becoming abundantly clear, the citizens need protection against tyranny and the Charter is without the mechanism to address it.”