Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Who asked what, when in Jones case?

Inside City Hall

Greg Korte

"Who knew what, and when did they know it?" Sen. Howard Baker asked during the Watergate hearings.

At City Hall these days, the question is, "Who asked what, and when did they ask it?"

City Council members are complaining they were left out of the loop in the case of Nathaniel Jones, the 41-year-old Northside man who died in police custody 10 days ago.

But the city manager's office and police commanders insist every query from a council member was fully answered.

So who's right?

Records show few questions were asked before last Wednesday's City Council meeting turned ugly. A rundown:

• Monday, 3:02 p.m. - Oren Gilbert, an aide to Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, called Assistant City Manager Rashad Young, dropped the Rev. Jesse Jackson's name once or twice, and then asked for the cause of death in the Jones case.

• 4:55 p.m. - Councilman David Pepper called City Manager Valerie Lemmie's office and said he'd call back.

• Tuesday, 10 a.m. - Councilman Christopher Smitherman sent two memos to the city manager's office. The first asked for the White Castle security tape. The second read, "Please provide my office with an autopsy report for Nathaniel Jones today."

• 2:30 p.m. - Smitherman sent a third memo asking the city manager to perform an independent autopsy. An aide said he wanted all responses to his memos to be in writing.

• 4:30 p.m. - Pepper e-mailed Lt. Col. Richard Janke and Citizen Complaint Authority interim director Dan Baker, asking about the time frame for their investigations.

• 4:31 p.m. - Pepper e-mailed Fire Chief Robert Wright about firefighter discipline.

• 10:09 p.m. - Pepper e-mailed Lemmie about the format for the Human Relations Commission's community meeting in Walnut Hills on Wednesday. "The public airing of the tape in front of a crowded, emotional room is concerning. Can you be sure the plan for this is thoroughly reviewed?"

• Wednesday, 9 a.m. - Smitherman requested a list of all death-in-custody cases since Tom Streicher has been police chief.

• 9:40 p.m.: Michelle Edwards, a Smitherman aide, called to cancel a 10 a.m. briefing on the case.

• 5:45 p.m. - Pat Cunningham of Councilman Sam Malone's office called the city manager to ask for the address of Jones' family.

The Enquirer asked the city manager, the Police Department and all members of City Council for their e-mails, memos, phone messages and staff notes concerning council members' information requests.

Four council members, including two of those most vocal in criticizing the administration for not releasing information (Reece and Laketa Cole), did not respond. Neither did the Police Department.

LAW & ORDER: Between his position as chairman of the Law & Public Safety Committee and his job as associate at the downtown law firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, Councilman Pepper can hardly find the time to keep up with the Ohio Supreme Court's continuing legal education requirements.

The court fined Pepper $55 and listed him as an attorney "not in good standing" last week. It's not a disciplinary action, and Pepper's fine was the lowest of those slapped on 208 lawyers last week.

Pepper blamed a paperwork error.

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