Thursday, December 21, 2000

City manager generates debate

Electric spat splits council in Lebanon

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Discord on City Council is flaring again, and disagreement about the city manager is at the heart of it.

        Last week, council members James Reinhard and Amy Brewer criticized City Manager James Patrick's handling of electricity needs at the city's industrial park.

        Now, other council members are criticizing Mrs. Brewer and Mr. Reinhard over contracts that a former interim city manager improperly signed.

        “They were part of the ruling faction” when Ed Patterson was interim manager for several months in 1999, Councilwoman Jane Davenport said. Mr. Patterson signed contracts with suppliers without council approval.

        Councilmen Mark Flick and Ron Pandorf also say it's unfair that so little has been said about the contracts while Mr. Patrick has gotten so much flak for renting a generator.

        “We get our brains beat out on this council for dealing with this mess we inherited,” Mr. Flick said.

        More than a half-dozen contracts surfaced last week alone — including one for fuel that will be used for the generator — and council quickly passed them to make them legal. Deals worth more than $15,000 must be approved by council, City At torney Mark Yurick says.

        “It's 10 times worse than anything Jim Patrick did,” Mrs. Davenport said.

        Responded Mr. Patterson: “I sure had no intentions of being illegal.” Then-City Attorney Bill Duning approved the contracts, he added.

        Mrs. Brewer, meanwhile, dismissed the criticism as an attempt to divert attention from Mr. Patrick.

        “My job is to hold that gentleman whom I hired accountable for his actions,” she said. “He is doing things that are totally inappropri ate, and (other council members) are looking back on what happened in the past.”

        She and Mr. Reinhard have clashed with the rest of council over Mr. Patrick before. Earlier this year, they tried to fire him after he changed an employee's time card. Other members have supported him and are considering giving him a $10,000 raise.

        The latest controversy erupted after Mr. Patrick rented a generator Dec. 11 for Franklin Brazing. The city has not yet provided electrical service to its industrial park, and the company — the park's first tenant — needed to start operating by Jan. 1.

        Mr. Reinhard criticized Mr. Patrick for ordering the generator hooked up after council members and the city attorney voiced concerns. He also blamed the city manager for not arranging earlier for Cinergy to extend its lines. The generator and fuel will cost $20,000 for two weeks or $37,000 for a month, according to officials' estimates.


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