Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Issue 5 Case Finally Over; Supreme Court "DIGs" the Appeal

In 2001, voters of the City of Cincinnati passed Issue 5. That referendum amended the Charter, so that the chief of police and assistant chiefs of police (there are five) would be appointed by the city manager. Prior to the amendment, those possitions were considered "classified civil service" jobs, and were filled as the result of a competitive civil service exam. One of the effects of Issue 5 is to permit the city manager to appoint a chief or an assistant from outside the department. (To be clear, the manager can appoint only to vacant positions. Chief Streicher, for instance, was the Chief prior to enactment of Issue 5; the manager has no ability to appoint a replacement until he retires or otherwise leaves office.)

When Assistant Chief Lt. Col. Twitty left CPD, then-City Manager Valerie Lemmie appointed a longtime CPD officer to replace him. The Fraternal Order of Police sued, alleging that the charter amendment conflicted with its collective bargaining agreement with the City; according to the FOP, absent a renegotiation of the contract, the CBA should trump the City Charter.

The FOP lost in every stage of litigation. The State Employment Relations Board, which first heard the case, ruled in favor of the City. The FOP lost its appeal in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas and subsquently in the Court of Appeals. The FOP petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court to hear the case. It did so, and oral argument was held back in November; today, though, that Court dismissed the appeal as improvidently granted (and provided no further explanation of its action).

Ultimately, Issue Five will prove to be a good thing for the City. The chief and his (or her) assistants are policymakers, and vacancies in those positions should not be filled in the same manner as rank-and-file police officers. And it's good that the legality of the charter amendment is finally laid to rest, once and for all.

(Not to beat a dead horse, but I continue to believe that such appointments should be made by the mayor, not the unelected manager.)

Link: Enquirer

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