Saturday, April 22, 2000

Independence ex-chief: Firing was retaliation

BY Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Independence's ex-police chief says he was fired for “blowing the whistle” on the city's mayor, who he says was trying to influence a criminal investigation of a city councilman.

        Former Chief Ed Porter said Friday that Mayor Tom Kriege placed him on paid leave just four days after he contacted Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Don Buring over his concerns about the alleged interference.

        The police department had investigated whether Councilman Steve Feldhaus booby-trapped a park building with carpet tacks last summer to prevent vandals from jumping up and hanging on to the gutters. Anyone who hung on to the gutters could have sliced his hands, police said.

        Mr. Feldhaus says he is innocent; he is expected to be tried this week on misdemeanor wanton endanger ment and criminal mischief charges.

        Mr. Porter alleges that Mr. Kriege tried to influence Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, who is prosecuting Mr. Feldhaus. Specifically, Mr. Porter alleged that the mayor instructed the city's lawyer to contact Mr. Edmondson about the case.

        “I believe there was an effort on the part of the mayor to exercise his influence as the mayor of Independence to try to somehow influence the case,” Mr. Porter said at a news conference Friday.

        Mr. Kriege could not be reached for comment Friday. He has said he put Mr. Porter on leave on April 4 and fired him for differences in management style.

        Mr. Edmondson said Friday there was no attempt to influence the case against Mr. Feldhaus. Mr. Edmondson confirmed that he was contacted by City Attorney Lawson Walker about the case, but that Mr. Walker only wanted to check its status.

        “But he did not try to influence me one way or another,” Mr. Edmondson said.

        Mr. Edmondson said that shortly after talking to Mr. Walker, he told Mr. Porter about the conversation, but he made it clear that the city attorney only wanted an update.

        Afterward, the mayor called Mr. Porter into his office and gave him 24 hours to resign, Mr. Porter said. When he refused, the mayor placed him on leave and then fired him Thursday, he said.

        Mr. Porter worked for the Cincinnati Police Department for 25 years before joining Independence nearly five years ago.

        Stephen Wolnitzek, the chief's attorney, said Mr. Porter will request a hearing before council to win reinstatement. If that fails, Mr. Wolnitzek will file a whistle-blower suit against the city and the mayor.


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