Charlie Winburn. Photo provided

By Charlie Winburn

Chair of Cincinnati Budget and Finance Committee

Since my formative days, I have been a strong supporter of our fine police officers. As a foster child, one of my caseworkers and also a foster dad to me, taught me to respect police officers. This is one reason why I am so passionate about this issue. This is not personal, it’s passion. I continue to be baffled at how Captain Butler has been treated by the City administration since he filed a lawsuit against the City and city manager, and how City Council has been so quiet.

He has now expanded his lawsuit to claim even more retaliation against him since his lawsuit was filed, and City Council has had very little to say. This is a city whistleblower who is making serious allegations, which should be taken seriously. We should all take the time to find out if his allegations are true before any action is taken. However, the City Administration has decided to convict this police officer in the public square by launching a vicious smear attack. No city employee should be treated this way in the future.

According to the amendment to the federal lawsuit, Captain Butler alleges the following:

“In retaliation, City Manager Black engineered the reassignment of command of the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) from Lt. Colonel Bailey to Lt. Colonel Theresa Theetge (who had no experience with the management and technology of the ECC).”

“In response to Captain Butler’s initial federal lawsuit, Mayor Cranley, City Manager Black and others in City Administration orchestrated a smear campaign against Captain Butler by falsely labeling him as a “racist,” and a “bad cop,” and claiming Captain Butler’s federal lawsuit was intended to adversely impact the contractual relationship between the City of Cincinnati and minority-owned business enterprises.”

Regardless of how one may feel about the mayor or city manager, they shouldn’t even be treated this way. If this is true as stated by Captain Butler, the City of Cincinnati will eventually settle this case in favor of Captain Butler. The City of Cincinnati should protect City whistleblowers like Captain Butler who work for our City and report alleged city misconduct. We don’t know if his allegations are true or false in his lawsuit. However, we as a city should encourage whistleblowers to come forward without them having the feeling of being retaliated against in public or private when they come forward. This is my core concern surrounding this issue. City officials continue to smear a police officer who, before this, had a good reputation after a few bumps along the way, as we all have in life.

For example, the City moved quickly to condemn Captain Butler as a disgruntled City employee making hostile remarks by labeling him a “disgruntled employee,’’ a “bad cop,’’ and a “racist cop.’’ They continue to paint him as a cop who has allegedly mistreated African Americans in the past by sending out letters and various correspondence. None of which has been proven. Mayor John Cranley, City Council, and the city manager should apologize to Captain Butler for labeling this whistleblower as a disgruntled employee prior to entering court to discredit him.

Without a proper channel to investigate his allegations, his lawsuit was the only way to make his case against the City. This is exactly why the city needs an independent office of inspector general to investigate complaints of wrongdoing such as this one. The City of Cincinnati deliberately leaked a negative dossier on this police officer to various media outlets. City officials came after this police officer, according to the lawsuit, to distract the public and the media from the substance and merits of Captain Butler’s lawsuit. The mayor and city manager appeared to use a smear campaign by shifting the discussion of the lawsuit to an attack on Black businesses in order to distract from the negative impact the lawsuit has had on the mayor, the city manager, and Council as well as our city.

Since 2014, there appears to be a hostile work environment at City Hall, and this is only one instance. For example, the improper use of our fine Cincinnati police officers has resulted in the following cases:

  1. The firing of police chief Jeffrey Blackwell was done in public to the embarrassment of the chief and several officers were allegedly used to escort him out of his office, which was an unnecessary use of force. Some citizens believe there is a nexus between the Blackwell’s public firing and the massive stroke he suffered.
  2. The City Solicitor’s Office inappropriately used the Cincinnati police department, the FBI and Ohio attorney general to create a bogus crime scene where there was none and by trying to frame and retaliate against a city employee who is a senior citizen. This was aimed to embarrass a City Council member by creating the “box-gate’’ scandal.
  3. The City Administration is currently abusing their power by smearing a police officer who refused to keep quiet about his concerns and right to file a lawsuit against the City as a whistleblower. And if this type of smear campaign keeps up, any City employee could be next. It may be the city manager, an assistant city manager or someone else in the administration. Retaliation against others must stop at City Hall.
  4. The mayor and the City Administration had The Center for Closing the Health Gap investigated. A public hearing was held at City Hall regarding this matter and the City Administration had extra police come to City Hall at the public hearing in an unnecessary show of force because they thought that there would be a citizen uprising. This did not happen and demonstrated another act of retaliation against innocent and law-abiding citizens who attended the public hearing.

As a member of City Council, let me apologize, if no one else will, to Captain Butler on behalf of Mayor Cranley, the city manager, and Council, for the retaliation he has been subjected to. We should not be litigating any aspect of this case before it gets ruled on in the courts. Instead of smearing a fine police officer, we should let the merits of the case be decided on and leave his reputation out of it.

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