Friday, September 06, 2002

Lemmie refuses to delay Twitty discipline hearings

By Gregory Korte,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        City Manager Valerie Lemmie firmly rebuffed efforts by the city's vice mayor Thursday to postpone disciplinary hearings against assistant police chief Ron Twitty, who is under felony indictment, accused of covering up how his city car was damaged.

        Voicing criticism of the grand jury that indicted Lt. Col. Twitty Tuesday, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece asked the city to hold off on any action that would strip the city's highest-ranking black officer of his paycheck.

        Col. Twitty has been on paid leave since the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office began the investigation July 12.

        Ms. Reece's comments, at City Council's first meeting following the summer recess, follow the revelation that an assistant city solicitor served as foreman of the grand jury.

        The panel indicted Col. Twitty on two felonies and two misdemeanors, the most serious of which was tampering with evidence in connection to damage to his city car July 4. Prosecutors believe he wrecked the car and then lied about it to investigators.

        “We've gone down this road, and we've seen riots, and we don't want to get to that point again,” Ms. Reece said. “The question now becomes, how will we move forward to make sure the process is fair and untainted?”

        Under police regulations and past practice, police officers indicted on felony charges are automatically suspended without pay and, if they are convicted, fired.

        Ms. Reece wanted to hold off any decision on discipline until after the verdict. But Ms. Lemmie said the disciplinary process had already begun.

        “Are you saying postponement is not an option?” Ms. Reece asked.

        “Yes, I am,” Ms. Lemmie said.

        Ms. Lemmie declined to discuss the disciplinary process in further detail, saying only that a hearing would be held before Tuesday. She would not identify that hearing officer, but promised that “the city solicitor's office will not be directly involved in such a hearing and will not be representing the police department at the hearing.”

        Under the Fraternal Order of Police contract, Col. Twitty would be able to appeal any discipline to an outside arbitrator. If that happens, Ms. Lemmie said, the city would likely hire an outside lawyer.

        Also Thursday:

        City Council voted to place a charter amendment on the Nov. 5 ballot that would forbid city money from being used for political campaigns. The ballot issue would overturn the public financing provisions of a campaign finance reform measure that passed last year.

        The city's “mask” ordinance, which prohibited Ku Klux Klansmen, anti-globalization protesters and others from concealing their faces, was repealed. The city solicitor's office said the 12-year-old law was unlikely to survive a constitutional challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

        City Council voted 9-0 to approve, in principle, a proposal to require prompt payment of the city's bills.

        By a 6-3 vote, City Council approved an ordinance requiring city contractors to give equal access to union and minority subcontractors.


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