Thursday, June 15, 2000

Shirey decision called for

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tired of near-weekly rumors that the city manager is about to be fired, some Cincinnati City Council members now say it's time to make a decision about John Shirey.

        They are calling for a performance review that was scheduled for April, and never done, as a way to determine whether the manager will keep his job.

        “Either we need to get behind the administration and not beat them up every week or make changes,” said Councilwoman Minette Cooper. “We need to tell (Mr. Shirey) we're behind him or get rid of him.”

        The latest rumor to circulate in City Hall is that some council members were forming a silent caucus to force the manager's resignation and make Planning Director Elizabeth Blume interim manager.

        Ms. Blume said Wednesday that was “pure silliness.”

        Councilman Paul Booth, who said he heard the rumor last week, wants a review of Mr. Shirey as a way to end the speculation among council members.

        “As long as we don't do it, a cloud hangs over the city,” he said. “We need to face it, sit down, deal with it and move forward.”

        That doesn't mean members are ready to oust the city manager. While many have expressed various problems with the administration — on everything from communication to oversight of city programs and budgetary issues — they say no decision has been reached.

        “I'm not going to evaluate the manager in the press,” said Councilman Todd Portune, who has been critical of Mr. Shirey on a number of issues. “I said a few weeks ago that I have no intention of letting this fester.”

        Hired in 1993, Mr. Shirey oversees the daily operation of the city's 7,000 employees. But for at least a year, his $149,000-a-year job has been see-sawing between complaints. Last June, the council voted to give him a pay raise but suspend his evaluation until December to give him time to address six specific problems.

        The council then voted to keep him, and members gave him another series of issues to fix before reviewing him again in April.

        “If nobody else calls for (Mr. Shirey's review), then I will,” Mr. Portune said. “The constant rumors are a distraction.”

        Other council members — including Phil Heimlich and Alicia Reece — said the mayor should be the one to call for the review. But Mayor Charlie Luken said Wednesday that he was leaving it up to council.


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