Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Police union wins a round




By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati's police union won a restraining order against the city Tuesday, temporarily keeping alive a promotional list that could affect who gets the assistant police chief job vacated by Lt. Col. Ron Twitty.

The Fraternal Order of Police requested and obtained the order to protect the possibility that Capt. Stephen Gregoire, the next top scorer on a 2001 eligibility test, can get the job. The union says Capt. Gregoire deserves the job because he's next on the list.

The city says that's not how it works anymore — not since voters approved the Issue 5 civil-service reform measure last year that allows the department to go outside to hire chiefs and assistant chiefs.

The effect of Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge John Andrew West's order on City Manager Valerie Lemmie's timing for choosing a new assistant chief was not clear. She is at a conference in Yugoslavia and could not be reached for comment.

Ms. Lemmie has said she would not begin looking for Col. Twitty's replacement for 90 days, which would be Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, the order keeps the eligibility list alive while the union proceeds on two other fronts, said union lawyer Steve Lazarus:

A grievance they're taking to arbitration.

A complaint with the State Employee Relations Board that accuses the city of failing to negotiate with the union before putting Issue 5 on the ballot.

The grievance could take two to three months, Mr. Lazarus said. He did not know how long the Employee Relations Board action could take. The union needed the restraining order to keep the eligibility test active until the grievance and state processes are resolved..

Capt. Gregoire, now head of the Internal Investigations Section, is 55 and has been on the force 32 years. The union suggested to Ms. Lemmie that she appoint Capt. Gregoire to Col. Twitty's position, then open another assistant chief's slot for the next in line, Capt. Michael Cureton.

That would have addressed the diversity issue raised by some African-Americans who have urged that Col. Twitty be replaced by someone else who is black.

Capt. Cureton is black, as is Ms. Lemmie. But she rejected the union's idea.

Col. Twitty announced Sept. 10 his intention to retire within 90 days.

He announced it the day he pleaded no contest to attempted obstruction of justice after being accused of lying about a July 4 wreck that damaged his city-owned car.

E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com



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