Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Citizens show support for cop, clerk fired by mayor

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        VILLA HILLS — Members of a group dedicated to reinstating this city's fired police chief and city clerk will go door to door this Sunday, armed with informational pamphlets and petitions.

        “Citizens to Make Villa Hills The Most Livable City ... Again” organized Saturday, after four of the six Villa Hills Council members voted to hire a Covington law firm to look into Mayor Steve Clark's recent firing of the city's police chief.

        The group's title comes from Villa Hills' 1994 designation by Cincinnati magazine as Greater Cincinnati's most livable city.

        “We consider ourselves the silent majority,” said 12-year resident Jim Ciuccio. “There are a whole lot of us who've been sitting back and talking privately about what's been going on in our city. Now, we say, it's time to do something about it.”

        On Dec. 28, Mayor Steve Clark fired veteran Police Chief Michael “Corky” Brown and longtime City Clerk Sue Kramer, wife of Councilman Bob Kramer.

        The firings occurred just hours after a state audit questioning more than $44,000 in city spending — including money paid for holiday parties, bar bills, travel and restaurant meals — was made public. Mr. Clark will not say why he fired the two. He has denied critics' claims that the firings were done in retaliation.

        A petition being circulated by the citizens group seeks the reinstatement of Chief Brown and Mrs. Kramer.

        The citizens group will be asking residents to attend the regular Villa Hills City Council meeting next Wednesday to express support for the fired police chief and city clerk.

        “We're trying to stay out of the politics,” said 12-year resident Steve Devoto, who estimated the citizen group's size as “80 members and growing.”

        “Our job is to get Sue and Corky back,” Mr. Devoto said. “Both of them were excellent employees. If we can't get them back, we'd like to see them get some type of severance, or, at the very least, a letter of recommendation.”

        During the past year, tensions between the mayor and the council majority in this normally quiet, upper middle-class community have escalated.

        “It was one thing when people were being called names,” Mr. Ciuccio said. “But now people's lives are being affected.”

        In October, Mr. Clark requested the audit of city expenditures, mostly from a past administration, during an unrelated investigation into a city check that the mayor said was mistakenly sent to a Florence concrete company. The $25,025 check, which was cashed and then returned to the city, was for work not put out for bid, a violation of state law.

        However, a Kenton County grand jury refused to indict Mr. Clark in November.

        Shelley Espich said the citizens group plans to host a town forum later this month.


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