Thursday, May 24, 2001

Council subpoenas former worker in Genesis, West End investigation




By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati City Council took a rare step Wednesday, issuing a subpoena to a former city worker who wants to testify about alleged misuse of city funds in the West End.

        By a 9-0 vote, council authorized the Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) to subpoena Charles Bronson, a former city employee who used to supervise Genesis Redevelopment Corp. and the West End Community Council.

        Mr. Bronson - who told OMI officials recently he wants to testify publicly - will be asked to appear before council at its regular meeting June 6.

        Last week, Councilman Phil Heimlich pushed for council approving the subpoena - only the second one council has granted in the history of OMI - after OMI director Kimberlee Gray appeared before council.

        She stunned council members at last week's meeting when she said that City Manager John Shirey - her boss - had tried to interfere with her investigation into whether city staffers knowingly violated rules when they approved payments of city funds to the intertwined development groups.

        Mr. Shirey denied interfering in any way.

        But at Wednesday's meeting, council members who had opposed the subpoena last week - including Alicia Reece, Minette Cooper and Paul Booth - voted to issue it, after they had gained concessions from Mr. Heimlich.

        They wanted an assurance that only an OMI investigator - not council members - would ask questions of Mr. Bronson in a one-hour session.

        “I'm OK with that,” Mr. Heimlich said. “I just want the investigation to proceed.”

        After unanimously approving the issuance of the subpoena, council passed a Heimlich motion - on a 5-4 vote - that would require Ms. Gray to submit her final report on the OMI investigation directly to council, bypassing the city manager, who usually receives department reports and then passes them on to council.

        Councilman Pat DeWine offered a motion that would change city law to allow the OMI director to report directly to council instead of the city manager if the director felt it necessary to conduct “full and fair investigations.”

        That motion was referred to council's law committee.

       



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