Mallory Blocks Bodyguard Vote

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory is using a loophole in city council’s rules, known as a “pocket veto,” to block the group from voting on a proposal to make his office budget bear the expense for the mayor’s bodyguard.

Although city council’s Finance Committee voted 4-2 last week to recommend approval, Mallory hasn’t yet placed it on the full city council’s agenda for a final decision. Typically, most items are voted upon within two weeks after leaving a committee. But a rule change put into effect by the current council when it took office in December 2005 gives Mallory the ability to indefinitely delay the measure.

Council is concerned about the large amount of overtime incurred by Police Spec. Scotty Johnson, Mallory’s bodyguard. During his first five months as bodyguard, Johnson had had more than 203 hours of overtime, for which the police department paid him $8,587. At that pace, the department would be paying almost $21,000 in overtime to Johnson by year’s end, in addition to his $58,000 annual salary.

For example, Johnson accompanied Mallory late last month on a weekend trip to Pittsburgh, where the pair watched the Bengals-Steelers game from a private luxury suite at Heinz Field.

Some council members question why paying any overtime is necessary, instead preferring that other officers be rotated into the bodyguard’s slot once Johnson reaches 40 hours of duty in a week. Mallory specifically requested Johnson, a longtime friend, as his bodyguard in April, after activist Kabaka Oba was shot outside City Hall.

Overtime costs are included in salary calculations to establish a pension amount once a police officer retires; the more overtime accrued, the higher the monthly pension payment.

Under a council rule change approved in August, the mayor has no deadline for forwarding items for final approval after council committees have passed them. If the mayor chooses, the items can linger until the end of the year, when another new council rule — known as the sunset clause — nullifies all items that haven’t been voted upon and cleans the legislative slate for the new calendar year.

Before the rule was changed in August, council used a rule approved last winter that prevented members from introducing items in committee. At that time, all proposals had to be introduced at the full council meeting, and the mayor could refer any item to a committee for review and debate. Council changed that rule this summer after a majority said it gave the mayor too much control over the legislative process.

The change was partially prompted by an incident in January, when Councilman Chris Monzel, a Republican, introduced a proposal to require mayoral action on items from committees within 30 days. Mallory disliked the proposal and Councilman Jeff Berding, a Democrat who heads the rules committee, refused to consider the matter.

Berding, an ardent Mallory supporter who is the front-runner to be appointed vice mayor when the next council term begins in late 2007, is mulling various compromises in the bodyguard dispute. One proposal would make the police department establish a written policy for providing bodyguard protection and require a provision for avoiding or reducing overtime expenses.

— Kevin Osborne

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4 Comments on “Mallory Blocks Bodyguard Vote”

  1. Bob Woodword’s new book is fresh on my mind, so, excuse me.
    Could someone around here write at least a pamphlet titled “City of Denial”?
    The parallels between President Bush and his War on Terror and Mayor Mallory and his War on Violence are numerous and striking.

  2. Male Dallory Says:

    Thanks for staying on top of this.

    It is shocking that this will never come up for a vote even with council quite interested. Our mayor isn’t under any known threat. We are taking a good cop off the streets and paying exorbitant overtime/pension costs while doing nothing to address the problem of violent crime plaguing our city.

    And Nero fiddled while Rome burned…

    Maybe we should flashback to the Mayor’s bold crime initiative of promoting billboards that urge citizens to “stay out of the crossfire”. Man were those hilarious. The Mayor’s message isn’t a very good one for City residents. He needs a bodyguard, and the rest of us need to keep our butts off the streets to stay out of the crossfire. Maybe that is why the mayor doesn’t live in the West End anymore, despite his claims.

  3. “Berding, an ardent Mallory supporter who is the front-runner to be appointed vice mayor when the next council term begins in late 2007, is mulling various compromises in the bodyguard dispute.”

    — Kevin

    Oh, brother!!! Where in the world did you get this from?! For all you know, Berding won’t even run for re-election in 2007. He might run in 2007 and lose. And who knows who all will run for Council and get elected. I’d love to see you support your statement.

    As for Mayor Mallory using the rules to stop a vote on this, I say GOOD. This isn’t a legislative issue and the Council shouldn’t be voting on it.

  4. Every Cincinnatian Says:

    I thought all the expenses to which Mr. Osborne refers are borne by our budget. Where are our bodyguards, Mr. Mallory and Mr. Streicher?

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