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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO WESTERN DIVISION JEFFREY BLACKWELL : CASENO. 2109 St. James Avenue : Cincinnati, Ohio 45206 Judge Plaintiff : COMPLAINT WITH JURY DEMAND CITY OF CINCINNATI, OHIO : ENDORSED HEREON City Hall 801 Plum Street Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 and JOHN CRANLEY, individually and in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Cincinnati City Hall 801 Plum Street Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 and HARRY BLACK, individually and in his official capacity as City Manager of the City of Cincinnati City Hall 801 Plum Street Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 Defendants. INTRODUCTIO! Former City of Cincinnati Chief of Police, Jeffrey Blackwell, brings this action to enforce his constitutional, federal, and state law rights arising out of the abuse of power by the Mayor of the City of Cincinnati and the illegal conduct of the City Manager as part of the Defendants” conspiracy that resulted in the destruction of Chief Blackwell's long and distinguished career as a law enforcement professional. Before he was even elected as Mayor of Cincinnati, Defendant Cranley revealed his intention to abuse his power by attempting to interfere with the then current City Manager's responsibility to hire a new Chief of Police. Defendant Cranley’s conduct during his campaign was a sign of things to come. Throughout his tenure as Mayor, Defendant Cranley has abused the power of his office by interfering with employment decisions that are not within the scope of his authority under the City Charter. With respect to Chief Blackwell, Defendant Cranley ignored the Chief's accomplishments that were recognized by local, state, and federal officials, while plotting to end his employment, When Chief Blackwell refused to resign under pressure in the summer of 2015, Defendant Cranley and others engaged in a conspiracy to assassinate his character. Defendants attempted to cover up their illegal scheme by selecting an African American replacement for Chief Blackwell so as to avoid anticipated problems from the African American community. Defendants’ plan was in violation of the City Charter and defamed the Chief and ruined his prospects for other employment. On September 9, 2015, Defendants terminated Plaintiff without due process and, rather than treating him with the dignity and respect due him, the Chief was portrayed as a threat to public safety-a SWAT team was ordered to be on “stand by” outside of City Hall as the Chief ‘was escorted from the building and then followed by City police officers as he retumed to his residence. Defendants leaked the termination and false reasons to the media knowing that they had violated the due process rights of the Chief, all with the intention of intimidating the Chief so that he would not challenge the actions. Plaintiff Blackwell seeks all available remedies, including reinstatement to his ‘employment, all lost wages and benefits, damages resulting from the embarrassment and humiliation associated with his termination, punitive damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. PARTIES 1. Plaintiff Jeffrey Blackwell (“Plaintiff”) is a citizen of the United States and resident of Hamilton County, Ohio. Plaintiff was employed by the City of Cincinnati as Chief of Police. 2. Chief Blackwell is a highly accomplished law enforcement professional who has earned numerous awards and commendations throughout his career, including but not limited to recent recognition as 2010 Columbus Public Servant of the Year; 2014 Ohio Senate Award for Outstanding Leadership; 2015 Cincinnati Friars Club Francis Award for Outstanding Community Leadership; National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice 2015 Hastie Award for National Police Officer of the Year. 3. During his tenure with the Cincinnati Police Department, Chief Blackwell was invited to speak as an expert on the issues of community policing and law enforcement, including appointment by the White House as contributor to the President's 21* Century Policing Task force Report; presenting at Harvard University’s 2015 Public Safety Summit on Leadership for a ‘New Era; and speaking at numerous conferences including National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; Major Cities Chiefs Conference; International Association of Chiefs of Police; 21* Century Task Force on Policing; Ford Center Rae in Policing Forum; National Association of City & County Health Officials National Conference; and the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice National Conference. 4, While Chief of Police, Plaintiff Blackwell instituted multiple initiatives to promote the role of policing in the City as a service-oriented approach, and to improve police operations and crime prevention, and to significantly strengthen relationships between the officers, citizens, and federal, state, and local agencies. This work included re-instituting a dedicated gang unit; establishing an on-line reporting platform; developing, improving, and implementing various community youth programs including H3, Chief's CHILL; CITI; YPOPS, and Adopt-a-class, #rd grade “Right to Read” Program; Summer Cadet & Police Explorers Program, and the Lighthouse Youth Services Homeless Youth Initiative. 5. Defendant City of Cincinnati is a municipality organized under the laws of the State of Ohio. 6. Defendant John Cranley is a United States citizen and a resident of Hamilton County, Ohio, and is the Mayor of the City of Cincinnati, Mr. Cranley is being sued individually and in his official capacity. 7. Defendant Harry Black is a United States citizen and a resident of the State of Ohio, and is the City Manager of the City of Cincinnati, Mr. Black is being sued individually and in his official capacity. JURISDICTION AND VENUE 8. This Court has jurisdiction to hear this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 because Plaintiff's federal claims set forth in Counts I-V arise under the laws of the United States, including 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. § 1931 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 9. This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 US.C, § 1367 because Plaintiffs state law claims derive from the same operative facts and are so related to his federal claims over which the Court has original jurisdiction that they form a part of the same case or controversy. 10. Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because Plaintiff was employed in this Division and District and the unlawful conduct alleged in this Complaint has taken place within this Division and District. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS 11. Upon information and belief, Plaintiff alleges the following: MAYOR CRANLEY DEMONSTRATES HIS INTENTION TO ‘ABUSE HIS POWER BEFORE HE WAS ELECTED 12. Mark Mallory took office following his re-election as Mayor of Cincinnati on December 1, 2010. Mayor Mallory subsequently hired Milton Dohoney as City Manager. 13. Inthe Summer of 2013, then-City Manager Milton Dohoney was seeking to hire a new Chief of Police following the resignation of Chief Blackwell’s predecessor, James Craig, in May, 2013. 14. Atthe time, Defendant John Cranley was runi 1g for election as Mayor of Cincinnati 15. Notwithstanding the need for the City Manager to fill the months-long vacancy for the Chief's position, during his mayoral campaign, and before he was elected as Mayor, Defendant Cranley told Dohoney not to hire a new police chief. 16. Defendant Cranley insisted that if elected he should be involved in the selection and hiring of the new Chief of Police. THEN CITY MANAGER MILTON DOHONEY FULFILLS HIS RESPONSIBILITY, NOTWITHSTANDING CRANLEY’S DEMANDS DURING HIS CAMPAIGN 17. Following a nationwide search, Plaintiff Blackwell was hired on September 13, 2013, as Chief of Police of Cincinnati by then-City Manager Milton Dohoney. 18. Chief Blackwell was sworn in and commenced his duties as Chief of Police for the City of Cincinnati on September 30, 2013. MAYOR-ELECT CRANLEY ABUSES HIS POWER BEFORE HE IS SWORN IN AS MAYOR 19, Mr. Cranley subsequently won the November 5, 2013 mayoral election and was scheduled to be swom in to office on December 1, 2013. 20. The City Charter provides in pertinent part:” The mayor, with the advice of council, shall have the authority to initiate and recommend to the council the removal of the city ‘manager, provided that such removal shall require an affirmative vote of five members of council” (Cincinnati City Charter, Art. IL, § 2, p. 16, attached as Ex. A), 21. In Mid-November 2013, weeks before he was sworn in as Mayor, Defendant Cranley forced Dohoney to resign by advising him that if he did not resign he would be terminated from his position as City Manager. 22. Defendant Cranley was swom in as Mayor on December 1, 2013. 23. Dohoney resigned effective that same date. Dohoney’s resignation was not voluntary, and Defendant Cranley constructively terminated Dohoney before Cranley was swom in, Upon information and belief, Cranley engaged in the same abuse of power with other City employees by interfering with their employment and denying them due process, 24, Defendant Cranley acted outside the scope of his authority by threatening Dohoney with termination before Cranley was swom-in as Mayor and without the authority to unilaterally terminate Dohoney's employment under the City Charter. FROM THE BEGINNING OF HIS TENURE AS MAYOR, DEFENDANT CRANLEY INTENDED TO REPLACE BLACKWELL AS CHIEF OF POLICE 25. By March 31, 2014 Plaintiff had served six months as Chief of Police and had ‘eamed the right to continue in his position unless removed by the City Manager for cause. The City Charter provides in pertinent part: “After the police chief has served six months, he or she shall be subject to removal only for cause including incompetency, inefficiency, dishonesty, insubordination, unsatisfactory performance, any other failure of good behavior, any other acts of misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in office, or conviction of any felony. If removed for cause the police chief may demand written charges and the right to be heard thereon before the city manager. Pending the compl n of such hearing the city manager may suspend the police chief from office.” (Ex. A, Charter, Art. V, § 5, p. 23, attached). 26. Between December 1, 2013, and September 9, 2015 Defendant Cranley held regular meetings with the assistant police chiefs but only met with Plaintiff one time. 27. Defendant Cranley failed or refused to meet with Plaintiff to address any issues or concems regarding th police department. For example, when the United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch and United States Attomey for the Southern District of Ohio, Carter Stewart, visited Cincinnati, Defendant Cranley failed or refused to attend the luncheon meeting with Plaintiff, Lynch, and Stewart 28. Between September 30, 2013 and May, 2015 Plaintiff received praise from local, state and national law enforcement officials for his work as Chief of Police, and the Chief was expected to oversee the security surrounding the City’s hosting of MLB All-Star game, along with other local, state and federal law enforcement officials. The MLB All Star Game was the ‘most public event in recent Cincinnati history, and there was enormous pressure on the Chief of Police to ensure a “safe” environment for the event, which was intended to showcase the City. Plaintiff successfully managed the security for the event; the All Star Game and the City received national praise. 29. Nonetheless, in May 2015, during intense preparations for the MLB Alll Star Game, Defendant Black held private meetings with Plaintiff wherein Defendants pressured Plaintiff to resign and look for other employment opportunities outside the City of Cincinnati. ‘These meetings were at the request of the Mayor and, if successful, could have left the City without a Chief of Police during the MLB All Star Game. 30. In those meetings Defendant Black told Plaintiff that Defendant Cranley was “the boss” and that Cranley considered Plaintiff to be a “bad fit” for the role of Chief of Police 31. Defendant Black admitted to Plaintiff that the public call for his resignation by Cranley was inevitable because he had been hired by the previous administration. Cranley wanted his “own man.” 32. Defendant Black insisted that the discussions of Cranley’s decision to pressure Plaintiff to resign remain confidential. 33. Defendant Black offered to give Plaintiff a “glowing” recommendation verbally and in writing, and emphasized in the conversation that no harm had been done at that point to Plaintiff's reputation. 34. Defendants attempted to coerce Plaintiff into resigning as Chief of Police by offering him a severance package under the guise of a confidential and mutually agreeable Adccision and then leaked the tendered agreement to the media after instructing Plaintiff to destroy the document. 35. Defendants pressured Plaintiff to resign and indicated that his professional reputation could be subject to damage if he did not do so. 36. Plaintiff understood from Defendant Black that, if he chose not to resign, his career would be damaged by Defendants. Defendant Black told Plaintiff that his employment and professional reputation would suffer and it would affect him seeking employment in the next city where he might apply for a position, if he did not resign. Defendant Black told Plaintiff he ‘was in a “dangerous” situation. Plaintiff refused to resign because he knew Cranley had no legitimate basis to interfere with his position and he had been successful in his role and wanted to continue serving the people of Cincinnati KNOWING THAT PLAINTIFF COULD ONLY BE TERMINATED BY DEFENDANT BLACK FOR CAUSE UNDER THE CITY CHARTER, DEFENDANTS CONSPIRED TO MANUFACTURE REASONS FOR HIS TERMINATION 37. After Plaintiff informed Defendant Black that he would not resign, Defendants began a campaign to assassinate his character. Inter alia, Defendants commissioned the Cincinnati Police Department Climate Assessment after Plaintiff refused to resign for purposes ‘of manufacturing reasons to terminate Plaintiff, 38. Inter alia, Defendants promoted Eliot Isaac to Assistant Chief, an African ‘American, with the intent and purpose of terminating Blackwell and replacing him with Isaac so as to avoid public pressure from the African American community in an attempt to disguise Cranley’s false reasons to terminate Blackwell, 39. Without warning and without due process, Defendant Black advised Plaintiff Blackwell of his immediate termination on September 9, 2015, in the City Manager's office at City Hall, Plaintiff Blackwell was not given any prior notice of his termination, was not informed of the charges against him, and was not given a written copy of the charges. The charges were false and/or misleading and Defendants knew they were false and/or misleading. 40. ‘Thereafter, Defendant Black issued a Memorandum to Defendant Cranley and ‘members of City Council stating that he was terminating Plaintiff Blackwell for cause and setting, forth the alleged reasons therefore. This statement was published to the media and the public on that same date, but was never given to Plaintiff Blackwell 41. Without any legitimate reasons, and in an effort to paint the Chief of Police as posing a safety threat to the City or public, Defendants ordered a SWAT team be on stand-by outside City Hall and Plaintiff Blackwell was escorted from the bt fing immediately following his discharge. After Plaintiff was escorted out of the building, police officers followed him to his residence following his termination, No other city official has been treated in this manner when terminated by Defendants and Defendants had no legitimate basis for their actions. 42. Defendants also published statements from other officers and Department employees for purposes of supporting Defendants’ false reasons for Plaintiff's termination. Not surprisingly, the statements were provided within days of the termination and include criticisms by Assistant Chief Isaac, who was Defendant Cranley’s hand-picked successor to Plaintiff Blackwell, and Tiffany Hardy who had been criticized by Plaintiff Blackwell for failing to adequately perform her work duties. 43. Defendant Black’s Termination Memorandum contains false and defamatory statements which Defendants made with malice and with intent to degrade, damage and destroy Plaintiff Blackwell's professional and personal reputation, 44, The false and defamatory statements published by Defendants include but are not limited to statements that Plaintiff Blackwell’s communications with command staff were either improper or insufficient; that he yelled or used verbal abuse with subordinates; that he engaged in any improper conduct with respect to use of overtime; that he has used his position to extract tickets to sporting events; that he inappropriately photographed himself during the funeral procession for Officer Sonny Kim; that Plaintiff Blackwell’s family continued to reside in Columbus; and that he failed to properly account for his work hours and vacation time. 45, Defendants acted intentionally, knowingly and with malice in publishing the ‘Termination Memorandum, with knowledge that it would so damaged his professional standing and reputation that it would effectively preclude him from seeking future employment in his chosen profession. 10 46. Plaintiff has sought and continues to seek comparable employment; however, the damage to his reputation and negative publicity caused by Defendants’ wrongful actions has prevented and precluded him from successfully obtaining another comparable position. COUNT I (Abuse of Power) 47, Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein. 48, Defendant Cranley has engaged in a pattern and practice of acting beyond the scope of his authority under the City Charter to effectively terminate the employment of city employees, including Chief Blackwell, without authority to do so. 49, Defendant Cranley acted to force the resignation of former City Manager Dohoney before Cranley had taken office as Mayor and without the unilateral authority to discharge the former City Manager. 50. Defendant Cranley acted to force or attempt to force the resignation of Chief Blackwell notwithstanding the fact that he was without authority to terminate the P Chief under the City Charter. 51. Defendants attempted to force Chief Blackwell to resign by threatening to injure his professional reputation. 52. When Plaintiff declined Defendants’ request for resignation, Defendants solicited criticism of Plaintiff's performance and procured the Cincinnati Police Department Climate Assessment for purposes of manufacturing negative comments regarding Chief Blackwell and terminating his employment. 53. Asa direct and proximate result of Defendants’ conduct, Plaintiff has suffered injury and damage for which he is entitled to judgment. ul COUNT II (Violation of Substantive Due Process 42 U.S.C. § 1983) 54, Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein. 55. Defendants’ actions stigmatized Plaintiff and deprived him of his protected interest in his good name and professional reputation. 56. Plaintiff has sought and continues to seek comparable employment but has been ‘unable to secure a position because of Defendants’ stigmatizing actions, including but not limited ‘to the public dissemination of statements regarding Plaintiff's termination which included false and defamatory statements impugning his professional reputation. 57. Defendant's intentional, malicious, and wanton actions effectively foreclosed the opportunity for Plaintiff to practice his profession by irreparably damaging his reputation within the law enforcement community. 58. Defendants’ actions infringed Plaintiff's liberty interests in his personal and/or professional reputation and in his interest in future employment. 59, Asacirect and proximate cause of Defendants’ unlawful conduct, Plaintiff has been damaged and is entitled to relief. COUNT IM (Viol jon of Procedural Due Process~ 42 U.S.C. § 1983) 60. Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein. 61. Plaintiff has a property interest in continued employment under the terms of his employment agreement with the City and as provided by the City Charter. 62. Plaintiff was hired on September 13, 2013, and was swom in as Police Chief on September 30, 2013. 12 63. On September 9, 2015, Defendants terminated Chief Blackwell's employment effective immediately. 64, —_Atthe time of Plaintiff's termination, he had served as Chief of Police for roughly 23 months. 65. The City Charter provides that “[a}fter the police chief has served six months, he or she shall be subject to removal only for cause including incompetency, inefficiency, dishonesty, insubordination, unsatisfactory performance, any other failure of good behavior, any other acts of misfeasance, malfeasance, or nonfeasance in office, or conviction of any felony.” (Ex. A, Charter, Art. V, § 5, p. 23, attached), 66. The City Charter further provides that “[iJf removed for cause, police chief may demand written charges and the right to be heard thereon before the city manager.” (Id.). 67. Defendants failed to provide Plaintiff with any pre-deprivation notice or hearing regarding his termination in direct contravention of the City Charter and in violation of Plaintiff's due process rights. 68. Defendants failed to provide Plaintiff with written charges or any hearing thereon. 69. Defendants likewise failed to provide Plaintiff with a name-clearing hearing or any other post-deprivation process in violation of Plaintiff's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. 70. In denying Plaintiff adequate pre-deprivation and/or post-deprivation process, Defendants violated Plaintiff's procedural due process rights protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, 71. Defendants’ above-described conduct was intentional, malicious, willful and ‘wanton in nature, 13 72. Asadirect and proximate cause of Defendants’ unlawful conduct, Plaintiff has been damaged and is entitled to relief. COUNTIV (Violation of Right to Free Speech — 42 U.S.C. § 1983) 73, Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein, 74, Plaintiff engaged in constitutionally protected speech or conduct when he complained of racial disparities and discrimination in the promotion of officers within the department. 75. Defendants’ actions in terminating Plaintiff in retaliation for his protected speech or conduct violated Plaintiff's right to free speech on matters of public concem as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 76. Defendants’ above-described conduct was intentional, malicious, willful and wanton in nature. 77. Asa direct and proximate cause of Defendants’ unlawful retaliatory conduct, Plaintiff has been damaged and is entitled to relief. COUNT V (Federal Civil Conspiracy- Violation of Due Process) 78. Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein, 79. Defendants Cranley and Black conspired to deprive Plaintiff of his employment and to deprive him of any pre-deprivation notice or process. 80. Defendants’ agreed to a scheme by which they solicited criticism of Plaintiff's job performance and commissioned the Climate Assessment with the intent to manufacture a basis for terminating Plaintiff's employment. 4 81. Defendants conspired to publish false and defamatory statements regarding Plaintiff and Plaintiff's job performance, and to cause damage to Plaintiff's professional reputation. 82, Defendant Cranley orchestrated and directed the termination of Plaintiff's employment even though he does not have authority to terminate the police chief under the City Charter. 83. Defendants’ actions were intended to circumvent their duties under the City Charter and to deprive Plaintiff of his right to written charges and a hearing before the City Manager. 84, Defendants’ above-described conduct was intentional, malicious, willful and ‘wanton in nature 85. Asa direct and proximate cause of Defendants’ unlawful conduct, Plaintiff has been damaged and is entitled to relief. COUNT VI (Defamation) 86. Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein. 87. Defendants Cranley and Black intentionally and/or knowingly made false and defamatory statements about Chief Blackwell. 88. The published false statements include both oral statements and false written publication, which have injured Plaintiff's reputation and exposed him to public contempt, ridicule, shame and disgrace, and have adversely affected Plaintiff in his profession. 89. Defendants published these statements to various persons, including but not limited to Cincinnati City Council and employees of the City, as well as the news media, 90. Defendants published these statements, negligently, recklessly and/or with actual malice. 15 91. Defendants’ actions were willful, wanton, and mal nus and the pul statements were made without privilege, and/or made with actual malice. 92. Defendants’ false statements impugned Plaintiff's professional reputation, reflect, upon his character, and have injured his profession. 93. Chief Blackwell suffered injury as a result of Defendants’ false and defamatory statements, including but not limited to injuries to his reputation and livelihood as well as per se injuries. 94. Defendants’ intentional and malicious actions entitle Plaintiff to punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees and costs. COUNT VII (State Law Civil Conspiracy- Defamation) 95. Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein, 96. Defendant Cranley and Blackwell maliciously conspired to defame Plaintiff by agreeing to a scheme by which Defendants would solicit negative comments about Chief Blackwell for purposes of manufacturing grounds to terminate his employment. 97. Asarresult of Defendant's actions, Plaintiff has suffered damages, including damage to his reputation and professional livelihood as well as emotional distress. COUNT Vir (ortious Interference with Business Relations) 98. Plaintiff realleges the foregoing paragraphs as if fully rewritten herein. 99. Throughout his career, Plaintiff has a had longstanding record of high achievement and success as a police officer. 100. Plaintiff had a reasonable expectation of future employment in the field of law enforcement, 16 101. Defendants intentionally interfered with Plaintiff's prospects for future employment in his profession WHEREFORE, Plaintiff Jeffrey Blackwell demands judgment against Defendants as follows: (a) That Plaintiff be reinstated; (b) That Plaintiff be awarded compensatory damages including emotional distress damages, (©) That Plaintiff be awarded punitive damages; (® That Plaintiff be awarded pre-judgment interest; (©) That Plaintiff be awarded front pay (© That Plaintiff be awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees; and (g) That Plaintiff be compensated for the adverse tax consequences of receiving lump sum awards rather than their compensation over several, separate tax years, (h) That Plaintif be awarded all other legal and equitable relief to which he may be entitled, Respectfully submitted, Ish Randolph H. Freking (0009158) Brian P. Gillan (0030013) Trial Attorneys for Plaintiff FREKING MYERS & REUL LLC 525 Vine Street, Sixth Floor Cincinnati, OH 45202 Phone: 513-721-1975/Fax: 513-651-2570 randy@fmr law bgillan@fmr.law 7 JURY DEMAND Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury on all issues so triable. ‘sl 18