City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says allegations by two municipal workers that a Cincinnati councilman used a racial slur can neither be proven nor disproven, so the charge has been dropped as “unfounded.”
In a three-page memorandum given today to the city's Human Resources Department, Dohoney announced that there will be no disciplinary action taken against the two workers due to the administrative investigation concluding “there were no unbiased witnesses to the incident.”
The alleged incident occurred at about 8:15 a.m. on May 19, outside of Bortz’ townhouse in Mount Adams, when sanitation worker Shawn T. Allen blew the horn on his garbage truck a few times because its path was blocked by the councilman’s parked car. According to a police report filed the next day by Allen, Bortz yelled at him, “Nigger, stop blowing that horn. I will shoot your ass.”
Later on May 20, the Cincinnati Police Department issued a public statement in which it claimed Allen had retracted the allegation of ethnic intimidation that he filed against Bortz. But Allen went on a radio talk show on May 21 and said he never retracted it.
That's when local NAACP President Christopher Smitherman became involved. He said a second sanitation worker on the scene, Alice G. Folson, told him that she heard Bortz used the slur. Folson, however, didn't hear Bortz make a threat.
Based on Allen's apparently conflicting remarks, Dohoney had investigators from the Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA) investigate the matter. The agency typically reviews allegations of misconduct lodged against police officers.
“Given the unique dynamic at play here, after consultation with the Human Resources and Law Departments I determined that it would be better to have someone other than Public Services supervisory staff obtain statements from those involved,” Dohoney wrote in his memo.
“That request was not intended for this to become a CCA investigation, as this is not the type of situation that CCA was created to address,” Dohoney added. “However, because CCA staff has the skill sets for questioning people and obtaining statements, I requested they perform a special assignment for the city manager.”
The memo states Bortz acknowledges an encounter occurred, but denies using a racial slur or threatening Allen.
“In the initial report and the first interviews with Mr. Allen, his allegations were reportedly consistent,” Dohoney wrote. “During the third interaction it was reported that Mr. Allen indicated he was not sure what he heard, but he denied that he had made it up. The reported 'not being sure what he heard' statement was reported in the media as a recantation.”
The memo continued, “Since the CCA staff interviews of Mr. Allen took place after the discussions with Police, he was able to be questioned about the reported change of story. Mr. Allen indicates that after talking to Police on two occasions he felt intimidated when they came to his house for the follow up. He does not allege that they threatened him, but since he now knew a councilmember was involved he felt uneasy about being questioned at his home.”
Also, the report states that Allen “did not recall telling police that he was not sure what he heard.”
“There were no unbiased witnesses to the incident,” Dohoney wrote. “Messrs. Allen and Bortz’s alleged exchange where Mr. Bortz separately said he would shoot Mr. Allen was not overheard by Ms. Folson. There is no way to independently prove whether Mr. Bortz did or did not say that.”
Interestingly, Dohoney wrote, “Both employees are consistent in saying Mr. Bortz used the N-word coming out of the house initially.”
**** The full text of Dohoney's report follows:
To: Hilary Bohannon, Director, Human Resources
Andrew Glenn, Director, Public Services
From: Milton Dohoney, Jr., City Manager
Copies: Scott Stiles, David Holmes, Ken Glenn, John Curp, Terry Nestor
Subject: Racial Slur Allegation
This is clearly an out of the norm situation and because of that, I determined that it needed to be addressed in a meticulous manner.
Two Public Services employees, Shawn Allen and Alice Folson, lodged a complaint against Councilmember Chris Bortz. The employees alleged that on the morning of May 19, 2011, Mr. Bortz used a racial slur. Mr. Allen alleged that Mr. Bortz threatened to shoot him.
Due to the allegation of a physical threat against Mr. Allen, it necessitated that this incident needed to be reviewed along parallel but clearly separate tracks. Determining if a crime had been committed was the sole province of the Police Department. The responsibility for the administrative review fell to the Administration.
Given the unique dynamic at play here, after consultation with the Human Resources and Law Departments I determined that it would be better to have someone other than Public Services supervisory staff obtain statements from those involved. I decided to ask Director Ken Glenn of the Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA) if his office would perform the questioning of the parties. That request was not intended for this to become a CCA investigation, as this is not the type of situation that CCA was created to address. However, because CCA staff has the skill sets for questioning people and obtaining statements, I requested they perform a special assignment for the City Manager. CCA’s role began and ended with their speaking with Ms. Folson and Messrs. Allen and Bortz.
Both employees indicate that Mr. Bortz’s car was impeding their attempts to turn onto the private street where Mr. Bortz resides. The employees acknowledge that Mr. Allen layed on the horn in an attempt to roust the car’s owner to come out and move it. The employees further allege that Mr. Bortz used the “N” word upon emerging from his residence to get Mr. Allen to stop blowing the horn as he was proceeding to move his vehicle.
Subsequent to that, Mr. Allen alleges that Mr. Bortz approached him while he was still in the cab of his truck and used the “N” word a second time, adding a threat to shoot him.
Ms. Folson indicates that she was performing her duties at the rear of the truck, including using the compactor, and therefore did not hear any threat allegedly being made.
After that reported exchange, but before the workers left the area, Ms. Folson indicated that she briefly engaged Mr. Bortz in a cordial conversation about departmental/political issues. That is how the situation reportedly ended.
The employees have indicated that Mr. Allen did not know who Mr. Bortz was but Ms. Folson did, having attended several sessions of City Council.
This incident occurred at approximately 8:15 a.m. The workers reported the incident to their immediate supervisor, and upon completion of their route went to the District 5 police substation to lodge a complaint.
CCA staff was able to obtain a statement from Ms. Folson the day after the incident (Friday, May 20). Mr. Allen did not attend work the day after. He also was not at work going into the following week. CCA staff was not able to get a statement from Mr. Allen until May 26. They met with Mr. Allen at the offices of the NAACP.
It was my decision for CCA staff to not pursue obtaining a statement from Mr. Bortz until after we had statements from both employees.
Councilmember Bortz Rebuttal
Mr. Bortz was interviewed by CCA staff in their offices on Monday, June 2, 2011. Mr. Bortz reported that it was the horn that brought him out of the house. He indicated that both the horn and the truck itself were loud. He indicates he did make some comment to Mr. Allen about blowing the horn and that he was moving his car. He denies using a racial slur right after coming out of his house, and further denies threatening to shoot Mr. Allen or making a second slur.
Mr. Bortz acknowledges that he and Ms. Folson had a brief but pleasant conversation about broader city/departmental issues before they left. He alleges that he was unaware there had been an “incident” until he was contacted later.
Mr. Bortz’s car was at issue in prompting Mr. Allen to blow the horn.
There was no one else outside except for the three parties involved.
Mr. Bortz and Ms. Folson had a brief, non-incident related conversation before the parties went their separate ways.
Mr. Bortz used the “N” word coming out of his residence.
Mr. Bortz used the “N” word a second time and made a verbal threat of bodily harm to Mr. Allen (only).
M. Allen had three interactions with Police that all took place prior to CCA being able to get a statement from him: 1) the initial filing of the complaint at District 5; 2) the initial interview Mr. Allen had with two District 1 detectives (because the alleged incident took place in District 1); and 3) the follow up interview with the same District 1 detectives. These interviews were not taped. That, however, is not inconsistent with normal practice given the nature of the conflict.
In the initial report and the first interviews with Mr. Allen, his allegations were reportedly consistent. During the third interaction it was reported that Mr. Allen indicated he was not sure what he heard, but he denied that he had made it up. The reported “not being sure what he heard” statement was reported in the media as a recantation.
Since the CCA staff interviews of Mr. Allen took place after the discussions with Police, he was able to be questioned about the reported change of story. Mr. Allen indicates that after talking to Police on two occasions he felt intimidated when they came to his house for the follow up. He does not allege that they threatened him, but since he now knew a councilmember was involved he felt uneasy about being questioned at his home.
However, in giving his statement to CCA staff, Mr. Allen indicated he did not recall telling police that he was not sure what he heard. He then indicated that his initial report did happen on the morning of May 19, 2011.
I have personally listened to and/or read the statements of the parties involved. There were no unbiased witnesses to the incident. Messrs. Allen and Bortz’s alleged exchange where Mr. Bortz separately said he would shoot Mr. Allen was not overheard by Ms. Folson. There is no way to independently prove whether Mr. Bortz did or did not say that.
Both employees are consistent in saying Mr. Bortz used the “N” word coming out of the house initially. Both Ms. Folson and Mr. Bortz described their brief conversation that took place after the alleged slur as cordial/pleasant.
The only finding that can be made here is Not Sustained, meaning there is insufficient evidence to prove or disprove this happened. Because of this finding there will be no administrative/ disciplinary action taken against either Ms. Folson or Mr. Allen.
This matter is now closed.