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Cranley Pulls Black Separation Agreement From Council Agenda

City Manager Harry Black (right) and Mayor John Cranley are locked in a dispute over Black's tenure.
City Manager Harry Black (right) and Mayor John Cranley are locked in a dispute over Black's tenure.

The future of Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black will likely be discussed and debated for at least another week.

Mayor John Cranley and Black reached a separation agreement worth more than $424,000 over the weekend. But the agreement was removed from Wednesday's City Council agenda even though a council committee approved it Monday.

Even if there was a vote on it, the plan would have failed.  

Mayor Cranley said during the meeting he pulled the agreement off the agenda. He said that decision followed a lengthy, candid, and constructive conversation with council members David Mann, Tamaya Dennard, Greg Landsman, and P.G. Sittenfeld Wednesday morning. The mayor said a number of issues were discussed.  

"We agreed that we should take some time over the next week to have a whole host of discussions with a variety of folks," Cranley said. "I believe that that offer was made in good faith and I intend to try to be part of those discussions and meetings on a going-forward basis."

Cranley says he intends to place the separation agreement on the council agenda again next week.

Council Member Wendell Young offered some advice to the mayor if that happens. "Provide all of us with a reason, or the reasons, that you would like to see the city manager no longer be here," Young said. "I have great difficulty making a decision about whether to retain someone or let them go without knowing what your objections are."

Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld said while there may have been some progress during the meeting Wednesday morning, he's not sure any individual positions were changed on the issue. "Government needs to value transparency and openness and making sure that we're keeping the public informed, not just about the 'what' and the reasons for the convenience of the 'what,' but the 'why,'" Sittenfeld said. "I think that really matters."

Sittenfeld said the city's business is still getting done, adding that if this "soap opera" interferes with that it would be a massive problem.

Five council Democrats, a majority, have been united in their disapproval of the separation agreement with Black, arguing taxpayers shouldn't have to pay to end a bad relationship.

Council Member Jeff Pastor is critical of that council majority. He said the "progressive caucus" isn't going to solve the problem.

"So let's keep the status quo, continue playing politics with a man who wants to leave with dignity as evidenced by his name on the dotted line," Pastor said. "It's what the public has come to expect. But, Mr. President, I hope and pray for a profile in courage today."

Pastor also spoke against a plan by the five Democrats to retain a special counsel to investigate the city manager's job performance and prepare a written report.

Cranley wants to get rid of the city manager he brought here from Baltimore three-and-a-half years ago because he says he believes Black has engaged in a pattern of verbally abusive and disrespectful behavior toward city employees.

Cranley asked for Black's resignation two weeks ago.  When the city manager refused, the mayor announced plans to begin removal proceedings.  Shortly afterwards negotiations began on the agreement that was announced last weekend.

Black said in a written statement Saturday that the agreement is in the best interest of the city.

"I believe it is a fair agreement," Black said. "I am hopeful that all members of City Council will immediately voice their support, so that this very painful week of tumult and chaos for the city – and me personally – can come to an end."

The city manager did not make any public comments about his status during Wednesday's city council meeting.

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