Saturday, June 16, 2001

Post-riot legal bills for city hit $270,000

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        City administrators are recommending reappropriating $270,000 to pay for unexpected legal bills for a U.S. Justice Department investigation of the police division and the April riots.

        By far the biggest legal bill is for attorneys representing the city in the Justice Department investigation. That bill has reached $130,000 for 2001, and could go up.

        Justice Department investigators are examining whether Cincinnati police have engaged in a pattern of excessive force. They were asked to examine the police division by Mayor Charlie Luken after a police officer April 7 fatally shot Timothy Thomas, an unarmed African-American wanted on several misdemeanor warrants. The shooting led to protests, rioting and a citywide curfew.

        Here is a breakdown of the rest of the legal bills:

        • $20,000 for attorneys to handle claims of civil rights violations during the riots.

        • $65,000 for attorneys to defend the city in racial-profiling litigation.

        • $40,000 to hire outside attorneys to represent the city during arbitration with police.

        • $15,000 for a special prosecutor to take over the case against Officer Stephen Roach, who is charged in the shooting of Mr. Thomas.

        The money is coming out of $10 million frozen in March in anticipation of revenue shortfalls this year, said Timothy Riordan, director of finance for the city.

        “The requested amounts represent an estimate ... beyond what the Law Department is capable of absorbing in their current approved budget,” wrote City Manager John Shirey in a memo to council.

        The law department has spent $35,000 out of its own budget to help cover the unbudgeted legal fees, according to Mr. Shirey.

        John Cranley, chairman of City Council's law committee, and Fay Dupuis, city law department director, couldn't be reached for comment.

        Minette Cooper, chairwoman of council's finance committee, said she wasn't familiar enough with the recommendation to comment.


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