By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Members of Cincinnati City Council defended themselves Tuesday after receiving a rebuke from the U.S. Department of Justice over the city's treatment of a court-appointed monitor to oversee police reforms.
Councilman John Cranley said that if another monitor were appointed with a similarly expansive concept of his duties, he would seek to run him out of town as well.
"I don't have any apologies for what we did," Mr. Cranley said of the 9-0 vote by City Council this month seeking the ouster of Dr. Alan Kalmanoff as monitor.
Dr. Kalmanoff, director of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Institute for Law and Policy Planning, was appointed last month by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott to oversee two key police reform agreements.
One, called the "collaborative agreement," seeks better police-community relations and settled a racial profiling lawsuit against the city. Another settled a "patterns and practices" investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into the use of force by Cincinnati police.
In a two-page letter sent last week, the Justice Department admonished city officials and proposed a meeting "as soon as possible" to discuss the city's conduct.
"Over the past several weeks, numerous city officials have publicly criticized the independent monitor, and suggested the city might unilaterally decide to nullify" the memorandum of agreement (MOA), wrote Robert N. Driscoll, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division. "Regardless of the merits of the criticism of Dr. Kalmanoff, such public statements undermine successful implementation of the MOA, and have the potential to place the city in breech of the MOA."
Councilman Pat DeWine, chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee, said such criticism was unfair. He fired off his own four-page letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
"First, I am disturbed that Mr. Driscoll would suggest that public officials should not exercise their First Amendment rights to speak on matters of public concern," the letter stated. "Second, I want to make absolutely clear the city's actions in regard to the monitor did not violate the agreement.
"Third, I would hope that the Department of Justice understands the importance of having in place a monitor who can inspire public confidence, who respects the taxpayers and who understands his role."
It may have been Dr. Kalmanoff's lack of interpersonal relationships with council that "undermined public confidence in his abilities," Mr. DeWine wrote. The monitor's $55,241 bill for three months' work sealed the city's objection.
Mr. DeWine told city lawyers they should do a more complete investigation of candidates to replace Dr. Kalmanoff. The city and other parties involved are to meet Friday with Judge Dlott to find a successor. He said a simple Internet search on Dr. Kalmanoff would have turned up newspaper articles about previous billing disputes.
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