Friday, November 03, 2000

Controversy spills into clerk's race

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        VILLA HILLS — A controversy over city officials using tax dollars to pay for bar tabs, golf outings and restaurant bills has bled into the Kenton County Circuit Court clerk's race.

        The Republican candidate in the clerk's race, Steve Kramer, is also a member of Villa Hills City Council.

        The campaign for Democratic incumbent clerk Mary Ann Woltenberg of Fort Wright has raised questions about whether Mr. Kramer was along when the money was spent, particularly on trips city officials made to Hooters in Newport and Columbus, Ohio.

        “Did (Mr. Kramer) go to Hooters, did he know the city's taxpayers were paying the bill, and if he didn't go did he know this was going on?” said Nathan Smith, a Fort Mitchell Democrat managing Mrs. Woltenberg's campaign.

        “And as a member of council, should he have been aware of this spending and stood up and done something about it?” Mr. Smith said.

        Mr. Kramer said he did not go on any of the trips to Hooters, despite claims from Mr. Smith that he did.

        “This is not even an issue, and I can't believe my opponent is slinging mud and bringing this up,” Mr. Kramer said.

        “It was poor judgment for the people who apparently went there, but I wasn't one of them.”

        Mr. Kramer said he did not know former Mayor Denny Stein and others were going to Hooters.

        “Council does approve bills every month, but we don't see all the credit-card receipts,” Mr. Kramer said.

        The state auditor's office has conducted a preliminary investigation into the spending and released a finding that while the spending was not illegal, it is not a good practice to use city tax dollars to pay for large parties and bar tabs at restaurants.

        “There are other issues in this race we need to be discussing, not this,” Mr. Kramer said.

        For instance, Mr. Kramer claims Mrs. Woltenberg is exaggerating the scope of her authority in a campaign piece mailed this week to Kenton County voters.

        In the piece, Mrs. Woltenberg said she has kept the office's costs down “without raising taxes.” But Mr. Kramer said the circuit clerk's office does not levy taxes.

        Mrs. Woltenberg said because she has managed her office efficiently it has not required more tax dollars from the state.


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