Morning News: FOP president, city manager tangle over police accountability; taxpayers could be on the hook for 4th and Race

FOP President Dan Hils says Cincinnati City Manager threatened him in a 12-minute phone call about efforts to delay police officer testimony before the Citizens Complaint Authority.

click to enlarge Cincinnati FOP headquarters - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Cincinnati FOP headquarters

Hey hey Cincy. Let’s get straight to news this morning.

A newly released phone call between Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black and Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Dan Hils reveals deep tension between the city and the FOP on police accountability measures, even as the two work to refresh the city’s historic Collaborative Agreement on police reform.

At the heart of the dispute: whether CPD officers should be compelled to testify at a hearing of the Citizens Complaint Authority before a related criminal investigation wraps up. Black wants officers involved in an Aug. 8 arrest where the arrestee alleges excessive force and racial profiling to testify before the CCA on that incident; the FOP blocked that request Oct. 30 because it wants the criminal case against the complainant finished first. Hils says the man is accused of assaulting the officers and that the union is merely trying to protect them by waiting until after the trial to testify to the CCA.

Late in the evening on Oct. 27, Black called Hils on his cellphone and spoke to him for about 12 minutes. During the conversation, he lit into the FOP president for “trying to obstruct the CCA.” Black then said that he would call in the U.S. Department of Justice — which oversaw the Collaborative Agreement that put the CCA in place — if the behavior continued.

Hils says the phone call was threatening to him. He recorded it and reported it to Loveland Police (he says he was staying the night in the suburb at the time). That department passed it along to Hamilton County prosecutors, who are investigating whether any laws were broken.

• So… awkward question here… what happens if that big, long-delayed development at 4th and Race Streets — the one the city tore down Pogue’s Garage to build — doesn’t materialize? Turns out taxpayers could be on the hook for the $800,000 it took to relocate a commercial tenant of the old building and another $4.5 million to demolish the garage. The Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation paid the costs for those actions up front, but the agreement between 3CDC and the city stipulates that, should the parking garage, commercial space and luxury apartment tower development by Flaherty & Collins Properties not pull through, the city has to reimburse 3CDC. Either the city or 3CDC could pull out of that agreement now, potentially triggering the repayment, since 3CDC has been unable to secure full financing thus far for the project. The revelation comes after 3CDC CEO Steve Leeper late last month wrote an editorial in the Enquirer stating that no tax money has been used on the project thus far. 3CDC says neither it nor the city has any intention of exiting the deal.

• A final plan for a dedicated soccer stadium for FC Cincinnati could be just days away, FC Cincinnati President and GM Jeff Berding says. What will it look like? That’s unclear, but during an interview on 700 WLW yesterday, Berding highlighted early support for a stadium from Oakley Community Council — giving you an idea of where the soccer team is focusing on. Berding also said the team will have $300 million to bring to the table for the deal and highlighted a Tuesday night vote by Nashville’s Metro Council approving plans for a Major League Soccer stadium there. Though Oakley has given some preliminary support for the plan, that’s not a full “yes.” And Berding says all three sites — the others are in the city’s West End and across the river in Newport — are still on the table. FC says it needs a dedicated stadium in order to compete for an MLS expansion franchise up for grabs.

• A Hamilton County Clerk of Courts employee has been accused of tampering with court records related to narcotics arrests. Yakyma Boyd was arrested yesterday on charges that she removed and concealed records about an investigation the Cincinnati Regional Narcotics Unit. The Clerk of Courts office says Boyd has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the investigation.

• Renovations are underway on one of Walnut Hills’ signature structures as the neighborhood around it continues to go through redevelopment. The Paramount Building at Gilbert Avenue and East McMillan Street was once the centerpiece of the busiest shopping district in the city outside of downtown. Now the effort by the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation and Model Group financed by the Cincinnati Development Fund, LISC of Greater Cincinnati, Chase Bank and nearly $2 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits is underway. The anchor for the $20 million project will be Esoteric Brewing, the city’s first minority-owned brewery.

• What’s on Mayor John Cranley’s agenda after winning a second term? Talking briefly with reporters yesterday after Cincinnati's City Council meeting, the mayor said he’s focused on finding a fix for Metro’s woes, figuring out the city’s housing court — which has had a rocky road of late after low and moderate-income homeowners have run into code compliance issues that occasionally land them in jail — and continuing to push the city and county’s deal setting up an independent board to run the region’s Metropolitan Sewer District.

All of those will be difficult. Cranley says the housing court, which has had unintended consequences but was designed to snare large landlords who aren’t paying for upkeep on their buildings, isn’t moving forward on the state level as he’d like it to. State lawmakers still need to approve the MSD deal — the prospects of which may not be good in a GOP-dominated State House. And Cranley’s plan to fix Metro hinges on the board of the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority presenting voters with a .5 percent sales tax increase next year. SORTA voted to do that, but Hamilton County Commission President Todd Portune opposes the ask because he’d like to set up a larger, regional transit system. Cranley also wants to roll back the .3 percent city earnings tax that currently goes to Metro, cutting into the gains it would make if county voters approve the sales tax increase.

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