Thursday, September 20, 2001

Council debate on Genesis money scandal gets ugly

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati City Council's debate on the Genesis Redevelopment investigation degenerated into an hour-long session of name-calling and finger-pointing Wednesday.

        The city's Office of Municipal Investigationhas been probing the West End housing program since February, trying to find out who in the city approved improper payments to Genesis board members and their families.

        Conflicting accounts from OMI staffers on the question of who's in charge of the inquiry — and whether City Manager John Shirey interfered in the investigation — led council to vote 5-4 Wednesday to put the matter back into the hands of the original investigators.

        Those investigators, Kimberlee Gray and Frank Sefton, told City Council this month that their boss, Glenda Smith-Johnston, lied when she said she never removed Ms. Gray from the case.

        But that was almost beside the point Wednesday night. Instead, council members took turns ranting:

        Minette Cooper: “I'm just amazed that we have politicians making decisions on the investigation.”

        Phil Heimlich: “A lot of us are questioning the integrity of OMI. If the person charged with investigating misconduct herself engages in misconduct, that's a serious situation.”

        Alicia Reece: “I want to get to the bottom of it. I just don't want to hear about it again until we get a final report. I'm just tired of it.”

        Pat DeWine: “I don't understand why members of this council don't want to get answers. What I do understand is a lot of taxpayer money is missing.”

        Chris Monzel: “It's our job as council to make sure the administration is acting ethically and with integrity.”

        Mayor Charlie Luken: “Bluntly, Mr. Heimlich, it's old. It's tired.”

        Finally, John Cranley: “I've only been on City Council nine months, and this is ugly. This is Exhibit A in why people don't like City Council.”

        Afterward, the city manager said any accusation that he has obstructed the investigation is a “phony, trumped-up charge.”


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