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Were Reports of Pending Shirey Firing Greatly Exaggerated?

By Katie Taft · July 1st, 1999 · Burning Questions
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Jymi Bolden

John Shirey



Despite news reports strongly insinuating that Cincinnati City Manager John Shirey was on his way out, his fate is not sealed.

Council members did not have enough votes to fire City Manager John Shirey after hours of closed-door discussions that ended June 28.

But council did agree that he needed a "to do" list to be accomplished over the next six months. After that, his job performance will be reviewed.

The decision comes after much speculation about whether Shirey would be fired or forced to leave by way of a small pay raise. Shirey, who has served as city manager since 1993, received a 3-percent pay hike, which council members said was in keeping with other city employees.

The opposition to keeping Shirey as city manager said he failed to push forward with projects such as riverfront development and convention center expansion.

Some critics also point to the vote of "no confidence" from the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) for Shirey's decision to put Officers Brent McCurley and Michael Miller, the officers involved in the shooting death of motorist Michael Carpenter, on desk duty. The FOP protested Shirey's decision, saying it demonstrated a lack of support for the officers under investigation.

Others argued that Shirey had assisted downtown development by bringing businesses like Tiffany & Co. to the area.

Councilman Phil Heimlich, who criticized the city manager for not dealing with downtown development, showed a little support for Shirey saying he could not be criticized for lack of cooperation and leadership in council. But Heimlich said he was not completely satisfied with Shirey's performance.

During all the speculation, The Cincinnati Enquirer added to the mix by reporting over and over again that Mayor Roxanne Qualls had said Shirey was "not getting the job done" and that Shirey had responded that council members could fire him if they were unhappy.

Was the reuse of these quotes -- in the absence of updated quotes detailing where the matter stood -- just a way to hype the story when they did not reflect the true sentiment of council?

Heimlich said he would not comment on why the newspaper kept reusing the quotes.

"I do know that everyone going in (to the session) didn't look at this the same way," he said.

Although he could not speculate on what others thought, Heimlich said he agreed with the mayor's sentiment.

"I don't think Shirey's been terribly effective," he said. "But we shouldn't use him as the scapegoat."

Heimlich said that he believed the "new leadership" to be elected in November should decide about the future of the city manager based on whether he accomplishes the list of goals he has been given.

During the closed-door session, was the city manager's continuing battle with the FOP ever discussed?

Heimlich said he would not specifically tell what was discussed in the review.

But he said that the ongoing fight was definitely a demonstration of the city manager's poor communication skills.

"If he would have sat down with (FOP President Keith Fangman) and built a relationship, then there would not be an adversary relationship with the FOP," Heimlich said. "(The city manager) deserves responsibility for that friction. To me, it's inexcusable."

Are the goals that were discussed in the session ultimately just the responsibility of council regardless of likes and dislikes for Shirey?

At this point, it is council's responsibility to see that the "to do" list gets done, Heimlich said.

 
 
 
 

 

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