Thursday, March 15, 2001

City won't give funds to Community Council

No money for group while audited board members still serve

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If the West End Community Council hopes to get money from the city again, then several of its board members will have to resign.

        That's the effect of a motion passed Wednesday by Cincinnati City Council, which said it will not fund the neighborhood group while members cited in city audits still serve on the board.

        “It's a victory for the whole community,” said Councilman Phil Heimlich, who pushed for an even stricter ordinance that would have dismantled the community council altogether.

        The motion was a blow to community council representatives, who fully expected city officials to let them apply for $10,000 through the city's Neighborhood Support Program.

        Several city audits — sparked by an Enquirer investigation last February — showed that relatives and board members of the community council and Genesis Rede velopment Inc. received thousands of dollars intended for community improvements without delivering services promised in contracts with the city.

        But Peg Moertl, the new director of neighborhood services, had recommended that the community council apply for — and essentially receive — the neighborhood money because there was no evidence showing those funds had ever been abused. She also said there would be much tighter monitoring of the NSP money than there had been in past programs.

        Board members named in audits, who have denied any wrongdoing, said Wednesday that council members are targeting African-Americans.

        While federal, state and local authorities have ruled that there is not enough evidence to support criminal charges against community council leaders, investigators have repeatedly criticized the group for shoddy bookkeeping and mismanagement.

        The city's Office of Municipal Investigation last week began a probe to find out why city officials continued approving payments to the community council and Genesis for years after problems were reported.


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