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Former Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil to run against current Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey for his old job

McGuffey defeated Neil in the 2020 primary with 70% of the vote
Sheriff Neil and Major McGuffey
Posted at 4:01 PM, Jul 12, 2023

CINCINNATI — An old rivalry will become new again after former Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil announced his intent to campaign for his old position on Wednesday.

Neil issued a press release declaring he "has launched his campaign to once again lead the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office."

The press release says that Neil, as a second-generation law enforcement officer, has "what it takes" to keep the region safe.

It also takes aim at the current Hamilton County Sheriff, Charmaine McGuffey.

"The current disorder and mismanagement of the Sheriff's Office requires serious action," reads the release. "Anyone who has been paying attention the last few years knows that the current Sheriff has seriously damaged the reputation and effectiveness of the office."

McGuffey and Neil have both led long careers in the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Neil spent 30 years as a deputy, and was elected to sheriff in 2012 and again in 2017. McGuffey spent 33 years in the sheriff's office and rose to the rank of Major under Neil.

Neil promoted her to head jailer of the Hamilton County Justice Center in 2013 — a role Neil subsequently fired her from in 2017, citing an internal affairs investigation that concluded McGuffey created a hostile work environment and was dishonest when questioned about it.

Investigators wrote she had demeaned her employees, engaged in favoritism and abused her power.

Neil claimed he offered McGuffey a civilian job with a pay cut that she refused, so he fired her. McGuffey claimed the investigation and firing were based in bias toward her gender and sexual orientation.

McGuffey filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission, claiming she was "discriminated against, retaliated against and unjustly terminated" from her role as head of the jail.

At the time, she said the investigation report "contains comments from my male colleagues identifying me as very 'pro-lesbian' and many of the females interviewed were questioned regarding how intimate of a relationship we had."

She claimed the real reason she was fired was because she questioned how Internal Affairs handled incidents of excessive force among corrections officers. The WCPO I-Team uncovered several of those cases.

In 2018, she formally filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Then, in 2019 — with the lawsuit still pending — McGuffey announced her plans to run against Neil. In her announcement, she accused him of abetting a campaign of bullying and silencing that prevented her from doing her job in the sheriff's office.

In January 2020, the Hamilton County Democratic Party endorsed McGuffey over Neil to run as their candidate for sheriff in the 2020 primary election. She won in the primary election over Neil with 70% of the vote, then went on to defeat her Republican challenger, Bruce Hoffbauer, in November to become the county's first female sheriff and first lesbian sheriff.

In July 2020, a federal judge denied a motion filed by the sheriff's office to dismiss McGuffey's lawsuit, citing “obvious differences” and “sharp contrasts” in the way the department investigated McGuffey versus seven others.

By the end of December that year, Hamilton County commissioners unanimously approved a settlement with McGuffey and in exchange she dropped the lawsuit.

Neil himself was never separately named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

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