Morning News: prosecutor won't file charges against city manager; top State House staffer asked to resign

City Manager Harry Black last month made a late-night phone call to Cincinnati police union president Dan Hils blasting him for keeping officers from testifying for a police accountability panel.

click to enlarge City Manager Harry Black with Mayor John Cranley. - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
City Manager Harry Black with Mayor John Cranley.

Good morning all. Here’s some quick news today.

Hamilton County prosecutors announced today they won’t file charges against Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black in relation to a late-night phone call he made to Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils late last month. In the call, Black asked the FOP president to stand down on attempts to delay Cincinnati police officers testimony to the Citizens Complaint Authority about an arrest that led to a complaint of excessive force and racial profiling. A criminal case against the complainant for assaulting an officer was ongoing at the time around that arrest, and Hils said he wanted officers to wait until that processes was finished.

Black, however, said that Hils was obstructing the CCA, which was created as part of the city’s police reform efforts following the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas in 2001. Hils said Black’s call was “threatening” and possibly even illegal. He recorded the conversation and turned it over to prosecutors for possible criminal charges against Black. In the call, the city manager told Hils if he continued to delay officers’ testimony, he would involve the U.S. Department of Justice. Black has suggested that Hils’ behavior stems from the FOP head eyeing a run for Hamilton County Sheriff.

• In other City Hall news, the city is asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit by CPD Capt. Jeff Butler alleging retaliation by the city manager for whistleblowing. Attorneys with the city’s law office say the suit is without merit and have asked U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett to throw it out and keep Butler from re-filing it. Butler alleges he was blocked from a promotion because he attempted to draw attention to what he says were inappropriate expenditures of federal money for the city’s 911 call center. He also says the city is inappropriately funneling public funds through a contracting clearinghouse called BFX LLC, which employs a friend of Black’s. Butler is seeking a promotion to assistant chief in his lawsuit. The city says his claims are false and that he didn’t get that promotion because he hasn’t earned it.

• Hamilton County Commissioners could decide as soon as tomorrow to put a new $5 fee on auto licenses to help pay for a replacement for the Western Hills Viaduct. The fee would raise about $33 million toward a county match of needed state and federal funds for the $300 million project. Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune is proposing the idea, which seems to have the support of the whole commission. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, has suggested a sunset clause on the fee — say, in 20 or 30 years — so that it goes away after debt on the bridge is paid for.

• Should FC Cincinnati win its bid for a Major League Soccer franchise, it has its first big sponsor lined up already. Mercy Health has signed on to be a jersey sponsor for the soccer team should it get into the majors. The 10-year deal could pay more than $5 million annually.

• The chief of staff for the Ohio State Senate’s top Democrat is out after “inappropriate conduct” toward other staff, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko asked Mike Premo, his chief of staff, to resign yesterday after allegations about his behavior toward other staffers. Yuko didn’t detail these allegations, but says he found them “credible.” No complaints have been filed against Premo yet. Premo’s dismissal is the latest in a string of accusations and resignations around inappropriate conduct. Sen. Cliff Hite, a Republican, resigned last month after allegations he sexually harassed a legislative employee.

• Speaking of allegations of misconduct: Senate candidate and Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel won’t say if he wants GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore, who has been accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with underage women, to step down. Many other high-ranking Republicans, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have called for Moore to vacate the party’s nomination for the Alabama Senate seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But Mandel, the frontrunner in the GOP primary for next year’s Senate race against incumbent Democrat Senator Sherrod Brown, has punted questions about his stance on Moore as he runs a far-right campaign matched in many ways with the talking points of the Trump administration. Moore has denied any misconduct.

• How much will a proposed fix to Kentucky’s ailing pension fund cost taxpayers, and how will it affect current pension recipients in the state? Don’t look to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s office for answers just yet. The governor’s office yesterday refused to release a report on the administration’s pension reform bill performed by a consultant for Kentucky Retirement Systems. That report comes after an earlier study by the state’s other pension board, the Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System, found that the bill could cost taxpayers more than $4 billion over the next two decades. Bevin’s office says it isn’t releasing the second report because the bill is still in draft form and will likely change — not because information in the report reflects badly on the plan.