Monday, February 24, 1997
A fair way to look
at golf scandal

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Mark Twain, noted dead person, never played the game.

But he knew all he needed to know about golf.

He called it ''a good walk spoiled.''

He'd change his tune if he walked the seven public courses of Cincinnati.

Here in the Queen City, golf is a game where the taxpayers are being taken for a ride.

And nobody complains.

Not too loudly, anyway. We're much too polite for that.

Am I missing something here?

Cincinnati's golf division is rife with corruption. The audit detailing its misdeeds measures 2 1/2 inches thick. Thomas Creasman, the division's one-time boss, has been indicted on charges of theft in office, bribery, having an unlawful interest in a public contract and three counts of tampering with records.

During his watch, tens, and maybe hundreds, of thousands of dollars of our money were misspent, misplaced, shuffled, flimflammed and ripped off.

But, to quote Bob Dole, another famous quipster: Where's the outrage?

Maybe it's been left unsaid because golf is such a polite game. And, this is such an exceedingly polite town.

Excuse me

We're too used to asking ''please?'' when we didn't hear something. Someone rounds the corner, runs right into us, steps on our toes and we're the ones who say ''pardon me.'' In a soft voice, of course. Don't want to interrupt or disrupt.

So, when outrage is a legitimate option, we just purse our lips. Instead of naming names and calling for resignations, our leaders give us bromides about values.

After the indictments came down last week, Mayor Roxanne Qualls was a model of restraint. ''The most important thing for the recreation commission,'' she said, ''is to ... make the necessary changes and to make sure its house is in order.''

John Shirey, Cincinnati's full-time city manager and part-time Olympic pole vault referee, went on TV and spoke about the indictments. In his reasoned referee's voice he observed how the golf division must start obeying the laws of the city and the state.

I'd rather he said the division is as crooked as a dogleg on the back nine.

I'd rather he got mad and said something as succinct as: ''This is a disgrace. It won't happen again.''

He had the right. The workers in the golf division are his employees. And never mind that everyone in the golf division and Mr. Shirey are all our tax-paid employees.

Polite offenses

It upsets me to see a piece of my paycheck lining somebody else's pockets. And it ticks me off when responsible parties don't share the public outrage.

Even the words used to describe the wrongdoings are flights of polite language that would make George Orwell cringe.

Mr. Creasman was tampering with records.

He allegedly ordered one of his golf pros to falsify a voucher. The money from the voucher went to a go-between. It was a reward for twisting a company's arm to contribute to the golf division's slush fund.

Where I come from, that's a kickback.

Another golf pro at one of Cincinnati's public courses did favors for Mr. Creasman, like paying his way to a golf junket at a Columbus country club. The pro treated his boss so he could keep his job.

That's a payoff.

Mr. Creasman is accused of buying $1,318.22 worth of brass bells from his wife's company for $1,890. His lawyer says: ''My client was not aware that there was any prohibition about contracting with a company that his wife had an interest in.''

His client also must not be familiar with conflict of interest.

A maintenance building that was never built showed up as a transaction to ''cover up an operating loss'' for 1993.

That's a scam.

Kickbacks, scams, payoffs, conflicts of interest.

These are rude words in a polite town. But they must be said. Out loud. And in public.

Otherwise, we forget what's really going on and make it easier for it to happen again.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.

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