Cranley: Cincinnati City Manager to take buyout, exit. Or will he?

City Manager Harry Black will leave his position, according to a statement from Mayor John Cranley's office. But the details are murky, and statements from Black and at least one council member make his exit sound far from certain.

City Manager Harry Black and Mayor John Cranley in sunnier days - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
City Manager Harry Black and Mayor John Cranley in sunnier days

After days of political friction and controversy, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black will leave his position, according to a statement released today from the office of Mayor John Cranley.

It's unclear what deal Black is being offered for his departure. His contract stipulates that he can receive up to eight months of his $267,000-a-year salary in the event he is fired, but some in City Hall say he's been offered as much as $400,000 to step aside.

“The city and city manager are working towards a mutually agreed upon departure agreement that will require Council approval,” Cranley said in the statement today. “The mayor and manger expect that Council will act on this matter within one week. We believe that the city’s law department will present a settlement document to Council by Monday, March 19th.”

However, a statement from Black's office, and from a council member, seemed to refute that he is certain to leave.

"I am currently in communication with the mayor," Black wrote. "We are having very productive discussions, however, as of this time, I, as city manager, have not made any decisions regarding matters that are currently being discussed in the media... As of right now, it is my desire to continue to serve as city manager as long as the mayor and council will have me."

Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Seelbach tweeted that there aren't enough votes to force Black to resign, nor to approve a buyout agreement.

Last Friday, sources within City Hall reported that the mayor asked Black to resign, though no reason was given for that request. Black reportedly refused, and it seemed unlikely enough Cincinnati City Councilmembers would provide the votes needed to approve Black's firing. Three — Tamaya Dennard, Wendell Young and P.G. Sittenfeld — openly opposed Black's removal.

Though he has not explicitly linked the two events, Cranley's request came after recent controversies involving the Cincinnati Police Department. Last week, Black dismissed Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief David Bailey after a convoluted controversy involving an allegedly unfinished overtime audit of CPD. The city manager said after that audit was leaked to news media that a small "rogue element" within CPD was working to undermine CPD Chief Eliot Isaac.

Bailey will receive $400,000 to not work until his retirement date in 2020 as a result of his ouster. Cranley expressed disagreement with that move.

Cranley tapped Black to be city manager in 2014, and their relationship since has been tumultuous. In 2016, the two butted heads on a move by Cranley to provide a pay boost to some city workers outside the city's collective bargaining process.

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