Reprimanded chief bailiff shifted into new job

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler won't discuss making Donald Robinson her "safety and security director"

click to enlarge Hamilton County Courthouse - Photo: James McNair
Photo: James McNair
Hamilton County Courthouse

(This story has been updated to include additional information provided by the clerk of courts office)

Donald Robinson, a high-ranking Hamilton County courthouse official who was recently reprimanded for pressuring subordinates into doing campaign work for Clerk of Courts Tracy Winkler, has been relieved of his duties and transferred into a newly created job under Winkler.

In response to a public records request from CityBeat, Winkler's office provided a document showing that Robinson was transferred from his previous job as chief deputy bailiff to a position called "safety and security manager/director" in the agency's "public safety division." The move, effective Oct. 24, was recommended and approved by Winkler, and Robinson joins her in her third-floor executive suite. His annual salary remains unchanged at $70,035.

As chief deputy bailiff, Robinson was in charge of all courtroom bailiffs in criminal proceedings before Hamilton County's 14 Municipal Court judges. Robinson had held the job for an unverifiable number of years.

On Oct. 11, however, Robinson was issued a written reprimand for urging 40 subordinates — through personal email accounts but during work hours on Thursday, Sept. 1 — to plant yard signs and wear Winkler T-shirts in public. The two-page reprimand noted that Robinson did not use county equipment or violate any office rules, but that he should have emphasized that any employee assistance to the Winkler re-election campaign was voluntary.

Robinson's use of email to drum up employee support for Winkler election campaigns dates back to 2012. He had frequently posted Winkler and Republican Party content on his public Facebook page during office hours and, in August 2015, shared a post of a Confederate flag and its meaning. All of those Facebook posts were removed in the past two weeks. They did not factor into his reprimand.

CityBeat visited Winkler's office last Thursday morning to ask about the Robinson reassignment and was told that neither Winkler, Robinson, office administrator Mark Waters nor human resources director Jeff Baker were available. None responded to messages requesting a phone call.

The interim chief of the office's Criminal Bailiff Division, Mike Briede, refused to discuss his assumption of Robinson's job. Briede was the assistant chief and has worked in the clerk's office since 2002.

Aftab Pureval, Winkler's Democratic challenger in the Nov. 8 election, criticized her handling of Robinson.

"She is once again placing party loyalty above the public by creating a new, taxpayer-funded position to keep her political cronies happy," he said by email. "Tracy Winkler's pay-to-play politics at the courthouse has to end and, on my watch, it will."

Pureval said Winkler showed "astonishing bad judgment" having a top deputy who would "bully public employees and post the Confederate flag while on the taxpayers' dime." He pledged to reclassify the legal status of rank-and-file workers in the clerk's office so that they would fall under Ohio statutes protecting state, city and county workers from partisan politics. Cincinnati attorney Tim Mara complained about the office politicking practices to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

In his new job, Robinson will manage all safety and security programs in the clerk's office, develop office safety procedures and evacuation plans and attend safety conferences. He will also run the DETER parking ticket program and will serve as its chief hearing officer.

CONTACT JAMES McNAIR: [email protected], @JMacNews on Twitter, 513-665-4700, x. 142.