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City cutting big check to Blackwell

Posted at 11:56 PM, Sep 14, 2015

CINCINNATI -- Jeffrey Blackwell, fired in a huge City Hall spectacle last week, will be getting a check for unused vacation time even though City Manager Harry Black cast doubt on the former chief's timekeeping records.

City spokesman Rocky Merz said Blackwell would get $23,000 for 350 hours of unused paid time off. That breaks down to about $65.71 per hour. His predecessor, former chief James Craig, was on the job for nearly the same amount of time as Blackwell and got $13,820.31 in accrued vacation time when he left in summer 2013.

Merz said the city has no plans to dispute Blackwell's hours. Blackwell claims he has only taken one day of vacation in two years on the job.

"The key is -- this is his accrued time," Black said Monday. "We can debate the merit of it -- the merits of it -- but as I've stated before, it's his time. I have no desire or intent to further pursue that particular issue or any other issues associated with the former chief. I'm satisfied."

The city manager wrote quite differently about Blackwell's vacation time in a scathing five-page memo outlining some of the reasons he fired the head of the largest city department:

"...the documentation of Mr. Blackwell's own work hours is not credible. Mr. Blackwell's travels are well documented and his family continues to reside in Columbus, Ohio, but he has only taken eight hours of vacation in two years of employment with the City. Many officers have described being unable to reach Mr. Blackwell during critical public safety moments even at times when Mr. Blackwell as recorded as in town. Mr. Blackwell has used so little vacation time that he 'maxed out' the amount of vacation time he can roll over into the next year, an unprecedented accrual of vacation after only two years of employment."

In May, Blackwell asked the city to put together a resignation package, but he didn't sign it. The chief may have been already feeling the heat from Black, though Black denied Blackwell was under any pressure to quit at the time.

Blackwell had actually discussed resigning twice, Black said. The last time was during a meeting May 21. At the time, the city was reeling from a rash of deadly shootings. Shootings across the city were at a nine-year high.

Had he resigned then, documents show Blackwell would have received a full year's salary, a $5,000 lump sum payment and paid health insurance coverage for a year or until he found a new job.

Blackwell's termination came as the city got results of a top-to-bottom morale review of the Cincinnati Police Department under Blackwell's command. In addition to questions about Blackwell's work hours, Black said Blackwell abused others to convey authority, retaliated against command officers he blamed for bad publicity and was obsessed with self-promotion to the point of taking "selfies" along the funeral procession route of slain officer Sonny Kim.

RELATED: Blackwell fired over abuse, retaliation, self-promotion

Blackwell's leadership style created "a work environment of hostility and retaliation," Black said in his memo to city leaders, and department morale had sunk to "an unprecedented low level."

The city manager also said the now-former chief disregarded the chain of command -- relying on "hand-selected" officers instead -- and that had a "significantly negative effect" on the department's effectiveness.

Blackwell called the accusations "a bunch of B.S." and said he plans to sue the city.

He spoke to reporters as he left a City Council meeting Wednesday afternoon. 

IN-DEPTH: How Blackwell could win lawsuit

Blackwell received a standing ovation from residents attending the meeting, and some residents stopped to hug him and speak to him as he left and walked down the sidewalk.

MORE: 'He's the best chief we've ever had'

"It means a lot to me that the people of Cincinnati trust me,” Blackwell said.