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Cincinnati City Council votes to subpoena reporter

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Cincinnati City Council votes to subpoena reporter

  • The City Council in Cincinnati is attempting to force a journalist to provide greater details about police corruption in the city, which she wrote about early last month.

Jan. 14, 2004 — A reporter from an alternative weekly newspaper will be told to appear before the Cincinnati City Council to answer questions about a story she wrote on corruption in the city’s police department.

In a 5-4 vote last week, the council approved the idea of subpoenaing CityBeat reporter Leslie Blade. John Fox, the newspaper’s publisher, said Monday the subpoena hasn’t yet been served, and criticized the decision to make a journalist an investigative tool of government.

The council has the authority to issue a subpoena under state law.

Blade’s Dec. 10 story, titled “Protection Racket: Public Housing Security Grant is a Cash Cow for Cops,” detailed how Cincinnati police officers, including supervisors, have long violated overtime regulations. The violations, Blade reported, first occurred in 1998 during off-duty work details for the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, paid for by the federal Housing and Urban Development program.

Police Chief Thomas H. Streicher Jr. declined to comment in Blade’s story. Neither he nor anyone else has been subpoenaed by the council, the City Solicitor’s office said today.

Fox described Blade’s story as “newsworthy” because the abuses had allegedly continued up until last spring. He told The Cincinnati Enquirer in a Jan. 9 article that Blade would not disclose any information that wasn’t already in her article, and if the council wanted to investigate the report it should begin by subpoenaing Streicher.

David Pepper, chairman of the council’s Law & Public Safety Committee, told the Enquirer that Blade’s subpoena was the first the council ever issued to a journalist. Pepper voted against the subpoena.

Councilman Christopher Smitherman, who sided with the majority, is seeking an investigation into the police overtime scandal. A City Council informational hearing is scheduled for Feb. 3.

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© 2004 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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