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City Hall Is All Talk, No Action on Ex-Felons

By Kevin Osborne · March 3rd, 2010 · Porkopolis
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Even if you’re the most passionate “get tough on crime” supporter, it’s in everyone’s best interests that criminals have a reasonable opportunity to find a decent job after they’ve served their debt to society.

The sad fact, however, is that if a felon is honest when filling out an employment application and admits to his or her criminal record, many employers — maybe even most — will throw the application into the trash.

No matter the skills possessed by the ex-felon or whether that person has gone back to school to get a degree, the odds are against the person finding gainful employment unless it’s the lowest-paying jobs, usually involving manual labor or working in a fast-food restaurant. Try supporting a family on that level of pay.

With that spirit-crushing reality in mind, a coalition of clergy and social justice advocacy groups is pressing Cincinnati City Hall to change its civil service rules and abolish its policy not to hire ex-felons.

Municipal government employs about 6,000 people and often has vacancies for jobs.

The coalition wants the city’s Civil Service Commission to give fair consideration to job applicants with old and irrelevant criminal records. The current policy condemns rehabilitated people to perpetual unemployment and under-employment, coalition members say, which increases the burden on the overloaded criminal justice and public welfare systems, funded by taxpayers. Worse, it prompts some to return to a life of crime out of desperation.

For the past three years, Cincinnati officials have staunchly opposed the modest rule changes.

In 2006, the Civil Service Commission refused to hire Gene Mays based on two drug-abuse felonies, which were then 13 and 19 years old. Although the commission knew Mays had been clean for 10 years, was ranked No. 1 for all five years of his union apprenticeship and had glowing recommendations from his supervisors, it didn’t matter. The commission’s response to his application: “Mr. Mays has a couple felony convictions on his record, and could therefore not be hired for city employment.”

City Hall’s indifference prompted the coalition last week to launch its “Fair Hiring Now” campaign. At a press conference held on the steps outside the building’s entrance, the coalition unveiled its proposal that would prevent old or irrelevant convictions from being used to automatically block qualified individuals from city jobs. It does still allow the city to reject applicants for valid reasons, many of which are outlined in the proposal.

Coalition members include well-respected groups like the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, the AMOS Project, the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission and others.

They presented letters of support signed by more than 1,000 residents.

While Mayor Mark Mallory has talked previously about his support for ex-felon rehabilitation and employment, he’s taken no action to get the civil service policy changed. The coalition notes the city’s Law Department, under the mayor’s direction, fought Gene Mays’ appeals all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court.

With Mallory now a lame duck after his reelection and well into the fifth year of his eight years in office, time is running out for him to champion this common-sense reform.

*****


The Cincinnati Police Department’s command staff is once again engaging in unprofessional behavior that mars the good work of many rank-and-file officers and calls into question how well the department is being managed.

As outlined in The Cincinnati Enquirer’s print edition on Feb. 28 (and not yet online as of CityBeat’s deadline), Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr., two of his assistant chiefs and a district commander have become embroiled in what’s known at police headquarters as “the soap opera.”

In short, the brouhaha began at a Jan. 15 meeting when Capt. Kimberly Frey, District 3 commander, was upset that Lt. Col. Michael Cureton questioned her about crime in her district. Frey complained to the chief, stating Cureton suggested she “and (her) staff are incompetent and untruthful.”

Frey filed a second complaint the next day, after Cureton sat next to her at a SWAT meeting. She stated it was done “to intimidate and harass me.”

Cureton fired back with a memo denying Frey’s accusations and questioning her personal relationship with Lt. Col. Richard Janke, the No. 2 person in the department, which he deemed “inappropriate and unprofessional.” That prompted a memo from Janke alleging Cureton hurt his reputation and should be disciplined. Streicher disregarded Janke’s request.

It’s unlikely Streicher would criticize the relationship either.

CPD doesn’t have a fraternization policy and, in fact, Streicher married a subordinate years ago who was on the mounted patrol. Shortly afterward, Kathy Streicher got a disability retirement.

If the latest blowup were an isolated incident, it would be bad enough. But it’s not.

There’s the time last April when Streicher and Janke had a dispute, and Streicher essentially demoted him and called him insubordinate. Janke challenged the action through the police union, and he was quietly restored to his former post.

And then there’s when Streicher barged into The Enquirer’s newsroom in summer 2006 and yelled at editors about an unflattering story. Or the time in spring 2006 when Janke chewed out an Over-the-Rhine business owner after the man publicly criticized the department.

Back in March 2005 a federal judge ruled the police department had breached the settlement of a racial profiling lawsuit.

The ruling came after Streicher and Janke blocked a court-appointed monitoring team from viewing police training and accessing records at police headquarters, which had been agreed to under the deal. The team also complained that Streicher and Janke had been persistently rude and uncooperative on multiple occasions.

That doesn’t even include how Streicher blatantly flaunts his disrespect for city rules that require him to have his primary home within city limits. It’s an open secret at City Hall that the chief has built a lavish McMansion in Green Township where he and his wife usually stay, while he lets others live at his supposed Price Hill home. To skirt the rule, the Green Township house is listed as being owned by a trust controlled by Streicher’s attorney.

No matter how bad Streicher’s rocky tenure gets, though, a timid City Council refuses to confront the issue — instead preferring to wait until the chief is ready to retire, expected sometime in late 2011.

Let’s hope the city can survive the waiting game.


PORKOPOLIS TIP LINES: 513-665-4700 (EXT.147) or pork@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

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