Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Monitor's cost could go higher

But city manager says $1 million a year is it

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The monitor appointed by a federal judge to oversee reforms in Cincinnati's police department says his 20-member team could cost taxpayers $7 million or more over the next five years.

Berkeley, Calif., lawyer Dr. Alan Kalmanoff also said the job might take longer than the five years called for in the two historic legal settlements the city made this year.

“It could be less than five years, but it may be that we are in town five years and find out it is going to take longer,” he said.

“It could take 15 years. I don't know.” That got an immediate reaction from officials at city hall Tuesday who have provided cost estimates for the monitor of “at least” $1 million.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie bristled at the possibility of costs going over $5 million in the next five years. She said the settlement called for spending $1 million a year for the next five years, and she said the monitor should not be here any longer than that.

“The City Council has authorized me to spend no more than $1 million a year,” she said. “That is our intention."

But Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andrew Douglas, who x will join Dr. Kalmanoff's team when he retires from the bench at the end of the year, said the two legal settlements have different costs that could push the bill well over $5 million.

“The (lawsuit settlement) has provisions for $1 million a year for five years. The agreement with the Justice Department has added cost factors,” said Justice Douglas, who was contacted Tuesday. “Added to those costs are specific provisions for capital expenses."

Ms. Lemmie is adamant that any higher fees would have to be negotiated with the police union, the Department of Justice and the Black United Front - the city's partners in the legal settlements. And she says City Council would have to approve any expenditures above $5 million."We have a budget we are committed to,” Ms. Lemmie said. “Anything more would cause us to have a conversation with the parties and the judge."

The city is facing a projected $35 million budget deficit next year, and a legislative push for federal money to help offset the expenses of the two settlements faces an uncertain fate.Contract talks between Dr. Kalmanoff and city lawyers began last week, a day after U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott appointed him. She selected the monitor on her own after becoming convinced the parties could not agree on one of 11 applicants for the job.

The monitor's job is to enforce deadlines in settlements that ended a federal investigation of the police department and suspended a lawsuit against the city by a group of African-American activists that accused police officers of racial profiling. The monitor will oversee the police department's overhaul of training, use-of-force policies and citizen complaint procedures. The monitor will also oversee efforts by community activists to create a new system of community-police relations. Justice Douglas was one of the 11 applicants for the monitor's job and he said a review of all the contracts shows that Dr. Kalmanoff's is among the least expensive.

“I can say with complete confidence that those proposals were all substantially greater in costs per hour,” he said, adding that this early in the process “it is virtually impossible to tie down a cost factor for a specific task."

Citizen groups who have been waiting for the monitor to come on board hope money won't cause any delay.

“Now that we have the monitor, we are prepared to organize. We need to do that with speed and communication,” said Steve Sunderland, spokesman for Citizens United for a Just Settlement, a coalition of community groups, business leaders and volunteers who helped collect surveys that were used in settlement talks.

“I am distressed that (Dr. Kalmanoff) is not closer,” said Mr. Sunderland, who is a University of Cincinnati professor. “The community has not met with him or heard from him about how he would like to process this."

In the first three days on the job, Mr. Kalmanoff met with a number of players in the settlement, including the police chief, city manager, city solicitors, outgoing Assistant Police Chief Ron Twitty and members of the local NAACP.

He said he is just beginning to lay the groundwork and expects to be in Cincinnati often. His team is establishing a local office and Dr. Kalmanoff said he will be constantly monitoring the city.

Mr. Sunderland said the monitor is especially important given the release of two investigative reports Monday that accused eight officers of improper force in the death of 29-year-old Roger Owensby Jr., who was asphyxiated while in police custody outside a Roselawn gas station on Nov. 7, 2000.

Ms. Lemmie said she made the call to discipline all of the officers after reviewing reports that came 23 months after the death. Mr. Sunderland said that only by changing the department and creating a new system of police relations will the situation get better. He added that only the monitor can make that happen.

“New policing standards will prevent that happening again. But only if the monitor is on top of it,” he said.

“The monitor needs to be aware of the depth of anger in this community about this case. This case is one of the central issues keeping the (downtown) boycott alive, that inflamed the riots and led to the settlements.”


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