Friday, February 21, 1997
Former golf division boss indicted
Creasman charged with thievery, bribery

BY KRISTEN DELGUZZI
and LAURA GOLDBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The former supervisor of Cincinnati's golf division was indicted Thursday on charges of contract rigging, faking payment vouchers and bribing a vendor that served the city's courses.

Thomas B. Creasman, 50, of Anderson Township was indicted by a Hamilton County grand jury on six felonies: theft in office, bribery, having an unlawful interest in a public contract, and three counts of tampering with records.

The indictment against Mr. Creasman, a 27-year city employee, was the culmination of a monthslong investigation into operations of the city's golf division, which runs seven public courses.

''The golf division was an unmitigated disaster,'' County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said. ''The indictments today ... are symptomatic of a huge mismanagement problem within that division and a lack of accountability.''

A city audit, ordered last year by City Manager John Shirey after the golf division posted a substantial shortfall, was released Thursday. The audit, which led to the criminal investigation, also points to problems in the golf division, where ''fundamental legal, financial and managerial controls have routinely been circumvented by management.''

''The most important thing for the recreation commission is to ... make the necessary changes and to make sure its house is in order,'' Mayor Roxanne Qualls said.

Recreation Director Ron Chase declined to comment on the case, but said he is ''pleased that the audit has been released so I can ... take whatever actions are appropriate as the manager of the system.''

Much of the mismanagement did not rise to the criminal level, Mr. Deters said. Some potential crimes were not pursued because numerous charges could have confused jurors, he said.

Other possible cases against a handful of current or former employees were not pursued because they agreed to assist prosecutors, Mr. Deters said.

Mr. Creasman, who is vacationing in North Carolina, faces a maximum of nine years in prison if convicted.

Attorney Rob Andrews said Mr. Creasman will plead not guilty and present a ''vigorous defense.''

Mr. Creasman, who was moved laterally last year to supervisor of the riverfront, will surrender by Monday. Once finger printed, he will be released on his promise to return to court, Common Pleas Judge Steven E. Martin said.

No decisions on Mr. Creasman's future will be made until the recreation commission reviews the audit and indictment.

Three charges against Mr. Creasman involve the questionable use of a 40-year-old fund maintained to receive donations from individuals and corporations.

Mr. Deters said Mr. Creasman not only misused thousands of dollars, but also pressured vendors into making sizable contributions to the ''319 Fund.'' The extra money funded golf division outings and - in one case - rewarded someone who arranged a $5,500 donation from Pepsi, he said.

''The thirst for contributions to the 319 Fund was unrelenting,'' Mr. Deters said.

Mr. Creasman is accused of:

  • Unlawful interest in a public contract for allegedly paying In Touch Marketing - his wife, Sheila Creasman, is one of two partners - $1,890 for two brass bells that cost only $1,318.22.

    Mr. Creasman's lawyer said the extra money was for the firm's travel and expenses in 1994. ''My client was not aware that there was any prohibition about contracting with a company that his wife had an interest in,'' he said.

  • Tampering with records for ordering a golf pro in 1994 to falsify a voucher to reward a non-city employee for getting the Pepsi contribution. The pro has cooperated and will not be charged.

  • Tampering with records for allegedly authorizing a $614.87 payment - from the 319 Fund - to B&B Riverboats as final compensation for a November 1994 cruise attended by 160 golf employees and guests, Mr. Deters said.

    The cruise cost $5,531.18, but Mr. Creasman allegedly asked the company to bill the city for only $4,916.31 so he could avoid going through the bidding process required for expenditures greater than $5,000, Mr. Deters said.

  • Bribery for allegedly arranging to award a contract to Cincinnati Concessions, which contributed $3,200 to the 319 Fund and paid $2,000 toward another cruise in 1995. Prosecutors say those actions influenced Mr. Creasman.

    Mr. Deters said Mr. Creasman rigged the bid by telling officials that a selection committee - which did not exist - recommended giving the contract to Cincinnati Concessions, even though another firm had submitted a better offer.

  • Tampering with records for allegedly ordering a golf pro to falsify vouchers worth $5,000 to pay another pro - whom Mr. Creasman no longer wanted, Mr. Deters said - for leaving before his contract ended. The pro who completed the vouchers will not be charged and is cooperating with prosecutors.

  • Theft in office for allegedly exercising improper control over city funds.

AUDIT: GOLF DIVISION PLAYED AROUND THE RULES