A high-ranking Hamilton County Clerk of Courts officer was formally reprimanded for asking agency employees to help the re-election campaign of incumbent Clerk Tracy Winkler and not making it clear that any participation would be voluntary.
Responding to a public records request from CityBeat, the agency provided a two-page "job action form" on chief deputy bailiff Donald Robinson Jr. for a work-hours email sent to "many of his subordinate employees." The written reprimand is dated Oct. 11, one day after CityBeat reported that Winkler and Robinson sent emails the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 1, instructing employees to contact the agency's human resources director if they were willing to plant election signs, wear Winkler T-shirts and stand in a parade.
"Many of you have committed to helping in some way and I still have not seen or heard from many of you. There is still time!!!" Robinson wrote in his email. His plea came atop a forwarded Winkler email to "everyone" that said, "There are plenty of events this weekend to get out and support our Keep Tracy Winkler Clerk of Courts campaign. As always post your pictures to all social media."
In spite of Robinson's reprimand, the clerk's office determined that he did not violate office policy. The reprimand, signed by office administrator Mark Waters, states that the email was sent from Robinson's personal email account on his own smartphone to recipients' personal email accounts. It says "there is no evidence" that he sent the 2:38 p.m. email "during his work time." Robinson, the form says, started his day before 7 a.m., worked through lunch, took an afternoon break and was on call that night.
[Download a copy of the reprimand by clicking here.]
Robinson was ordered to call a meeting of his subordinates. He was told to apologize to "anyone who was offended" by the tone of his email and to reinforce that campaign participation has no bearing on employment and promotion decisions.
"I made it clear to all my staff how they use their personal or voluntary time is their business and no way reflects how they are rated or graded on their work performance," Robinson wrote.
Robinson has also scrubbed most of his publicly shared posts on Facebook, many of which were posted during office hours and were supportive of Winkler and Republican campaigns and themes. He also removed a shared post bearing the image and meaning of the confederate flag, which drew the anger of state Sen. Cecil Thomas of Cincinnati.
Winkler has said nothing of her own office-hours email soliciting campaign volunteers. Her Democratic opponent, Aftab Pureval, has vowed to put rank-and-file workers in the clerk's office under a state classification that would protect them from partisan politics. Cincinnati attorney Timothy Mara has formally asked the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate Winkler's practice of soliciting employees for her election campaign.