Thursday, May 25, 2000

Council asks for probe of check


Villa Hills mayor: Action was 'mistake'

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        VILLA HILLS — The Kentucky Attorney General's Office has been asked to investigate a $25,025 check that Villa Hills Mayor Steve Clark signed and then sent to a concrete company for sidewalk construction.

        Villa Hills City Council voted 6-0 Tuesday night to ask for a formal investigation. As of Wednesday, the office of Attorney General Ben Chandler in Frankfort had not decided whether it will launch the probe, council members said.

        During the special meeting Tuesday, Mr. Clark, who has been under pressure by council to answer questions about the check, read a statement in which he apologized for making what he called a mistake.

        “I made a mistake in approving and signing a check for construction of sidewalks to All-Rite Concrete Inc.” of Florence, Mr. Clark said.

        “As soon as I discovered the error, the money was returned to the general fund,” he said. “Accusations are being made that this was a planned attempt to defraud

        the people of Villa Hills. This is untrue, and I emphasize that as strong as I possibly can.”

        But two council members said nobody has accused the mayor of anything. Council and the residents just want answers about the check, they said.

        “What the mayor said makes no sense to me,” said Councilmember Mike Sadouskas. “We still don't have any answers. That's why we voted for the investigation. I don't know where this paper trail is going to ultimately << lead, but I think it's more than just a simple mistake.”

        Under the city's purchasing procedures, expenditures of $10,000 or more are supposed to be bid out. The money was eventually returned to the city by the concrete company.

        Mr. Clark said he originally had the check drafted to expedite sidewalk work in the city. He said politics and problems he has had with some councilmembers have worsened the situation.

        “In the political world, it is wrong for elected officials to let their differences deprive the com<< munity from needs that are important and for which funds are available,” Mr. Clark said.

        But Councilman Steve Kramer said politics “has nothing to do with any of this.”

        “We want an answer,” Mr. Kramer said Wednesday. “Obviously something happened and there needs to be more of an explanation than what happened at (Tuesday's) meeting. Council is charged with overseeing the (city's) budget, and we have a fiscal responsibility to look into this matter.”

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