Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Mayor won't be indicted for check

Clark says he, new council can work together in Villa Hills

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        VILLA HILLS — Mayor Steve Clark, happy that a grand jury declined to indict him for his role in issuing a $25,025 check illegally to a Florence concrete company, said Monday he still hopes he and council can work together.

        “I'm pretty ecstatic,” Mr. Clark said. “I would hope that the incoming council would stop all the infighting, and realize that we need to do what's right for the residents.”

        A Kenton County grand jury met in a special session Friday to consider allegations that Mr. Clark failed to obtain the necessary bids and council approval before making the payment.

        Mr. Clark has maintained that the accusations resulted from his political differences with the majority of Villa Hills City Council. Council members have denied that the investigation was politically motivated.

        Mr. Clark said Monday he rejected an offer from the Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney that he read a prepared statement and resign as mayor, in exchange for no charges against him.

        The mayor added he's willing to work with the newly elected council but will not give in to anyone, “just because they want to be in charge.”

        Mike Schulkens, Mr. Clark's lawyer, said the incident involved “a very bad error in judgment but was nothing criminal.”

        “This was certain members of the city of Villa Hills Council trying to gore the mayor's ox,” Mr. Schulkens said.

        Earlier this year, Mr. Schulkens said that the mayor had attended a meeting of the city's sidewalk committee where there was discussion about setting aside money for much-discussed sidewalks, so that it didn't get spent on something else.

        “The mayor took it on himself to have the city clerk issue a check for $25,025 payable to the Florence All Rite Ready Mix Concrete Co.,” Mr. Schulkens said. “He didn't intend for it to go to the company. He just wanted it to be debited from (city accounts), so that it didn't get spent on something else.”

        When Mr. Clark later learned at a City Council meeting that the check had been sent to the concrete company, he had it returned, Mr. Schulkens said.

        Council members had said they were unaware that the

        check existed. State law requires any expenditure greater than $10,000 to be put out to bid.

        On another front, the Kentucky auditor's office is continuing a separate investigation of expenditures by a previous council.

        More than 800 checks and bills from a previous administration — mostly from former Mayor Dennis Stein's term in office — have been examined by the state auditor's office, after the mayor's supporters questioned spending at Hooters and other area restaurants, and for Christmas party alcohol.

        Mr. Stein, who was among those elected to council last week, has said the bills were for legitimate purposes, such as a city employee's retirement party.

        In a letter sent last month to Mr. Clark, a representative of the Kentucky auditor's office said that there was no indication that the expenditures were illegal, but they were likely inappropriate.


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