Friday, January 14, 2000

Corporex boos idea of a procurement law

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FRANKFORT — A new state law will not remedy the problems that plunged Corporex Cos. and Kenton Fiscal Court into a bidding scandal over construction of a new county courthouse, Corporex's attorney told a House committee Thursday.

        “Corporex believes that (House Bill 155) is an unwise and misguided legislative reaction to a simple problem that will not be remedied by additional legislation,” Joseph Trauth told the House Local Government Committee.

        The committee is considering a bill, inspired by the Corporex/Kenton County project, that would toughen the state's procurement laws for local governments. The committee did not vote on the bill Thursday but may do so next week.

        Mr. Trauth said problems associated with the bidding for the project could have been avoided if Kenton County followed its own procedures on publicly funded projects.

        “The simple problem is that local government agencies sometimes fail to properly follow their own procurement procedures,” Mr. Trauth said.

        “The lesson to be learned from the Kenton County project is not that additional legislation is needed ... but that local government officials need to be better informed regarding their procurement regulations and should be diligent about complying with them.”

        In 1997, Corporex — a Covington-based developer headed by Bill Butler — had the lowest bid and won the contract to build the $43 million project, which included a new courthouse and county parking garage.

        It was later revealed that former Judge-executive Clyde Middleton showed the bids of two competing developers to Mr. Butler. Mr. Butler has maintained the bids were public at the time, but Mr. Middleton resigned from office, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid $25,000 in restitution.

        Mr. Butler was investigated by the Kentucky Attorney General's Office but was not charged with any crime. Investigators from the office, however, said existing laws did not adequately address the situation and that the state's procurement laws needed to be strengthened.

        Rep. Robert Damron, D-Nicholasville, filed the bill after hearing testimony last year from the attorney general's investigators.


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