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Cincinnati Council Rejects Severance Agreement For City Manager Black

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.

A Cincinnati Council majority Wednesday rejected an 18-month severance package for City Manager Harry Black.

Black and Mayor John Cranley negotiated that agreement nearly two weeks ago. It would have cost the city more than $424,000.

Meanwhile, council will hold a special session Thursday and likely vote on a couple of proposals. One would be a 12-month severance package that likely doesn't have enough support for approval.

A majority may support a plan to pay Black eight months of severance if he voluntarily resigns. That could be approved because it leaves the decision on whether to depart up to Black.

"Being city manager is an honor and a privilege," Black said during remarks at Wednesday's City Council meeting. "I would very much like to continue in this capacity as long as this body desires for me to do so."Listen to Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black address City Council Wednesday.

Black said he's human and therefore imperfect, adding he's a work in progress and will always be.

"Mayor, I have offended you and I apologize for that," Black said. "It has been stated that I may have offended others. While this was never my intent, should this have ever occurred, I take full responsibility and I sincerely apologize to them."

Cranley said council members have to decide who's going to run the city. "I think we have a lot to decide about who we are as a city on a going-forward basis," he said. "Are we going to hold people hostage to political fights or are we going to support progress and growth? I believe these are very much tied together."

Cranley wants to get rid of the city manager because he says he believes Black has engaged in a pattern of verbally abusive and disrespectful behavior toward employees.

Cranley asked for Black's resignation nearly three weeks ago. When the city manager refused, the mayor announced plans to begin removal proceedings. Shortly afterward, negotiations began on the agreement that was announced about two weeks ago and rejected by council Wednesday.

Council Member Chris Seelbach said back in November the mayor indicated Black had his full support. "And you said it knowing all of the facts and allegations that you're going to present to us to fire the city manager," Seelbach said. "You knew all of that back in November but you still defended him 100 percent. I don't know what to believe and not to believe."

Seelbach and four other Democratic members have called for hiring a special counsel to investigate the city manager's performance and prepare a written report.

While five members may support that plan, Mayor Cranley could veto funding for a special counsel. It takes six votes to override a veto, leaving the group one vote short of moving forward with that proposal.

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