Saturday, July 29, 2000

Snowden quits amid dissension


Chief probation officer castigates 'witch hunt'

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The former Cincinnati police chief hired to shape up Hamilton County's probation department quit Friday, fed up with questions about his credentials.

snowden
Michael Snowden
        Michael Snowden's bosses — Hamilton County's judges — asked him to prove he had graduated from college to squelch rumors that had been circulating through the courthouse.

        Mr. Snowden did so Friday. He submitted copies of his two University of Cincinnati diplomas — along with his resignation letter.

        Dissension in the department had been mounting over the past few weeks. Probation officers complained about the ex-chief's management style as well as excessive changes. Judges transferred a quality-control employee, chosen by Mr. Snowden, out of the department. And they ordered Mr. Snowden not to make any more changes without their approval.

        The request for college credentials was the last straw for Mr. Snowden, who led the office for 19 months. He said he refused to embark on an effort to keep his job against what he expected would be a mounting campaign by his detractors to fire him.

        “I'm not going to stay around for a witch hunt,” he said. “It's just not worth it to me.”

        Court Administrator Mike Walton called Mr. Snowden a bright man with a great sense of humor and some good ideas. Some of his initiatives will remain, Mr. Walton said, others will not.

        But Mr. Walton said if his supervisors had asked him to produce his credentials, he would have done so without question.

        “It was a principle,” he said of Mr. Snowden's decision. “It was a line in the sand, so to speak.”

        Prosecutor Mike Allen, who supported the hiring of Mr. Snowden, said the former police chief never got the chance to make the changes he was hired to make. In some cases, he said, the judges who hired him interfered with his reforms. He described Mr. Snowden as an “outstanding manager” who was hamstrung by his own bosses.

        “Apparently, they wouldn't let him do his job,” Mr. Allen said Friday. “Because of certain egos, because certain egos were bruised, he wasn't able to do his job.”

        Mr. Snowden named Municipal Court Judge Robert Taylor and Common Pleas Court Judge Norbert Nadel as among those leading the effort to get his college records. Judge Nadel declined to comment and Judge Taylor could not be reached.

        The uprising started among some employees after a consultant's $690,000 study in June revealed a host of issues. Among them:

        • Urine tests not done on probationers.

        • Disparities in numbers of probationers being found in violation of their probation for failing to meet conditions.

        • Probation officers not meeting with the probationers on their caseloads.

        The report recommended making probation officers more accountable, leading some of them to complain that the resulting new standards were too restrictive and time consuming.

        Even the gathering of the information during the study unnerved some employees, who said they felt they were being followed and checked up on. About 220 staff members make up the department, about half of them probation officers.

        Mr. Snowden took the probation job in January 1999 after six years as chief of the 1,000-officer Cincinnati Police Division. He said he was praised for his proven leadership ability and reputation.

        Mr. Snowden, 52, said his pension from 321/2 years with the police division gave him the financial flexibility to resign without another job. He said he had no plans yet about what kind of job he would seek, though it would likely not be in the public sector.

        Enquirer reporter Dan Horn contributed.

       



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