Turf war erupts over Harrison committee appointments
Harrison City Council 2019 committees have been set, but only after a lengthy and controversial debate over assignments and an eventual amendment to the original committee designations.
Councilwoman Cindy Abrams originally was removed from the police and civil defense committees which she served on in 2018.
Abrams said removing her from the committees would disrupt the progress made with public safety in Harrison. Voters backed her because of her background in public safety. She served as a Cincinnati police officer from 1996 to 2003, she said.
Abrams said she also serves on the executive board of the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency, and didn’t understand why she could serve at the county level but not the local level.
“They picked me based on my knowledge, education, background, and what I bring to the table,” said Abrams. “I’m bringing Harrison to the table. We’ve never been to the table. We haven’t, with the county.”
But, Councilman Mark Louis said the committee assignments are about Harrison, not the county.
Mayor Bill Neyer said he created the committee list as he did because he wants to keep some continuity on the committees by having a council member on those committees who will still be on council in 2020, after the 2019 election.
Abrams is running for mayor this year, so in 2020 she will either no longer be serving the city as an elected official, or, as mayor, won’t be serving on a committee.
“I looked for somebody to put into that position that will be here, one of the other four council members onto that committee, so that we would have somebody moving forward in 2020,” said Neyer.
Abrams said Neyer said he would use council members where they were strongest and said she would be strongest on police and civil defense.
She also said Neyer did not take councilman Hank Menninger, who is a lawyer, off the law committee, and did not take Councilman Ethan Dole, who has a civil and environmental engineering degree, off of the streets, utilities and stormwater committees.
“You have been successful as a mayor because we are successful as a council working where we’re strongest,” said Abrams.
Neyer said if Abrams serves on other committees in 2019, she will have a broader range of experience than she has now.
“If I was doing it spitefully, I’d put her on all the exact same committees, and not let her have any new experience, but I’m not looking at it from a standpoint of selfishness,” said Neyer.
Several members of the public were in attendance to support Abrams, but some council members felt that Abrams was ignoring what others could bring to the committees.
Councilman Urbano Galindo, who serves on the civil defense committee, said he felt Abrams was negating his 22 years of background serving in the military.
“I’ve been in emergency management ... crisis action teams, I’ve done a lot of this where I can bring some value,” said Galindo.
“I’m not you, you’re not me, but bringing new perspectives, and I fully support you being on any one of these boards, but when you make a comment that you’re hurting the city of Harrison because we aren’t you, I take offense to that.”
Abrams said serving on a police department and serving in the military are not the same.
“I would say with the 22 years of service, there’s something there,” said Galindo.
Councilman Louis had made the motion to approve the original committee list.
“Nobody’s saying you’re (Abrams) not good enough, what you’re saying is nobody else is good enough,” said Louis.
Eventually, Louis withdrew his motion after councilman Ryan Grubbs proposed changes that moved Abrams back onto the police and civil defense committees and moved Menninger to streets, stormwater and utilities committees.
Louis, Dole, Abrams, Grubbs, and Mikes Mains voted yes to the new list. Galindo abstained. Menninger was not in attendance at the meeting.
Despite the debates over the assignments, Neyer said the city has a council with a wide breadth of experience.
“We’ve got seven individuals right now. Each one has a unique set of skills that they can bring to the table,” said Neyer. “Some skills overlap, some are quite unique. But those skills can be utilized, and it doesn’t have to be that you’re on a committee to have those skills benefit that department.”