Why Hamilton County jail commander Charmaine McGuffey says she's being ousted

Offered new role, she says it's a demotion
Posted at 2:58 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 18:13:36-04

CINCINNATI -- Maj. Charmaine McGuffey, who's run the Hamilton County Justice Center since 2013, claims she's the target of a witch hunt aimed at removing her from oversight at the jail.

McGuffey said she was "literally locked out of two staff meetings" and the subject of "vicious, hostile rumors" about her personality and management style.

According to McGuffey, the sheriff's office accused her of creating a hostile work environment and being untruthful.

She claims the real reason she's being ousted is because she questioned how Internal Affairs handled incidents of excessive force among corrections officers. The I-Team uncovered several of those cases, and an expert said it appears the sheriff's office has been too lax with discipline.

In a statement Tuesday, Sheriff Jim Neil said his Internal Affairs Section investigated "serious allegations" against McGuffey.

"Based on (the investigation's) findings ... and the unanimous recommendations of both our Internal Affairs Unit and legal advisors it was determined we could not allow Charmaine to remain in a management position," his statement said.

Neil's office has not yet provided WCPO with a copy of the report. McGuffey said she, too, had a hard time getting a copy, but eventually saw it Friday. She said she was never given a chance to respond to the allegations.

McGuffey said she and Neil had a good working relationship over the past four years. Neil knew she was asking questions about deputies' use of force, McGuffey said.

She said she thinks the commander in charge of Internal Affairs targeted her for pushing the issue.

"I just simply asked questions -- 'Can we do better? Can we do more?' And I believe that that did not sit well with certain people who felt that I was questioning them," McGuffey said.

In one instance, records show McGuffey called for a deputy to be arrested and fired. An internal investigation found that deputy, Jason Mize, used excessive force on Mark Myers, then 61 years old. Myers, who suffered cuts to his head and a broken hip, filed a federal lawsuitTuesday. Mize resigned from the sheriff's office Feb. 25.


McGuffey said Tuesday she could not comment on any specific cases.

"Truly I am not, I'll repeat that, I am not saying that I know more than what those investigators found or didn't find," she said. "I simply was targeted because I insisted that I, as the commander of this jail, know each and every instance of use of forces that occur and why they occurred and how we resolved them."

Neil offered McGuffey a job as a program coordinator, which she called a demotion.

"I would have zero -- zero -- power to initiate any changing initiatives in this jail," she said. "I would have no power to continue the programs or any of the programs I was getting ready to launch -- namely, the men's heroin pod, we've launched the exit pod, the recovery pod for the women, the veterans pod. I had programs coming in for the inmate population at large. I would have absolutely no power or authority to make those things happen in the future under a different position."

The jail's heroin recovery pod connects inmates with support from several agencies, both at the jail and once they're released. McGuffey's supporters wondered if those initiatives will continue.

"I would say it's almost an immeasurable impact, because you can't count the number of lives that, because of her work, have been impacted," said Mary Carol Melton, executive vice president of Cincinnati Union Bethel.

McGuffey declined to say whether she'll take the new position or wants her old job back. She said she's exploring legal options.

This story contains prior reporting by I-Team investigator Craig Cheatham.