Saturday, October 19, 2002

Sewer board to draft bylaws


Bid process also put in writing

By Dave Niinemets
Enquirer contributor

        FORT WRIGHT - It shouldn't be too long before new bylaws and procurement procedures are in place for Sanitation District 1, according to officials.

        “We're hoping to have it done in the next 60 days,” said Rick Kennedy, president of the district's board, which discussed the bylaws on Thursday.

        “We have a meeting on Nov. 21 and we're hoping to get the bylaws done by that meeting. As for the procurement, that's a lot more difficult and may take more time.”

        The board was told by the Campbell, Kenton and Boone County judge-executives last month to create official procurement rules and bylaws in writing. The request came after an Enquirer article pointed out a potential conflict of interest between district contracts and Kenton Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd's election campaign.

        Several companies receiving contracts totaling $10 million to $12 million had employees who donated a total of $23,000 to Mr. Murgatroyd's campaign, public records showed. Because Mr. Murgatroyd appoints half of the board's members and since the board does not put many jobs out for bid, opponents suggested there may be a conflict of interest.

        Without official policies in writing, there was no procedure to point to amid the allegations about the contract process for the Sanitation District, which provides sewer and wastewater service for 33 Northern Kentucky communities.

        Despite using the same system for deciding on contractors successfully for many years, there has never been an official policy in place for procedures or an open bid system like that used by the state since 1992.

        To address the allegations now and avoid them in the future, the judge-executives said, they requested official rules be drafted.

        “I don't really think it is going to change dramatically the way the board conducts its business,” said Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery. “I do think it's appropriate for a board which deals with such complicated matters to have a set of bylaws in place. And it's going to avoid in the future leaving an impression that may not even exist.”

        Mr. Murgatroyd agreed this has been needed for some time.

        “Our hope is that we'll have a policy in place that will cover us for the future,” he said. “It's just good policy to have something in place.”

        All four board members appointed by Mr. Murgatroyd, including Mr. Kennedy, are involved in his campaign.

        The donations and contracts were all legal within the bounds of state campaign finance and county ethics policies. It was the appearance of “pay to play” contract awards that rankled some Democratic critics.

        Mr. Murgatroyd said he thinks Sanitation Board members have unfairly been dragged into a political situation.

        Mr. Kennedy said the board is studying the policies of other regional boards like the airport board and water district.

        “We're dealing with three different entities with three different statutes,” he said. “It will take a while but we want to do it right.”

       



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