Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Krings' contract bypassed auditor

Rhodes asks for investigation

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes has asked the prosecutor's office to investigate the legality of Administrator David Krings' contract, days after a commissioner tried unsuccessfully to make a similar request.

The contract, which gives Mr. Krings at least 29 months of pay and 23 months of health benefits if he's ever fired, did not go through the auditor's office before the commissioners approved it 3-0 in late December, Mr. Rhodes said Monday. The auditor must certify every contract before approval to assure the money is available to honor it, according to state law.

"With everything of this nature there's a certification," Mr. Rhodes said. "That doesn't exist on this."

The contract has raised questions from Commissioner Phil Heimlich and others because of the size of the severance package and an unusual clause that says Mr. Krings can choose to consider himself fired - and collect severance - upon a suggestion by one commissioner that he resign. The deal also is unusual in that the commissioners did not have it reviewed by the prosecutor's office before approving it.

The contract - Mr. Krings' first new one in his decade as administrator - was passed at the last meeting before Mr. Heimlich, a fiscal conservative, replaced Commissioner Tom Neyer.

Mr. Heimlich sought a legal review of the contract last week after learning of it, questioning whether the comments of one commissioner can be considered a decision of the board. However, he could not get a second vote as required before the commissioners seek an opinion from the prosecutor. John Dowlin refused to ask for a written opinion, and Todd Portune was absent, recovering from recent surgery. Both voted for Mr. Krings' contract in December.

Monday, Mr. Heimlich welcomed Mr. Krings' remark that he's willing to discuss changing the contract. He told Mr. Krings in a memo that before new negotiations can take place the administrator must agree to reduce his severance package to the terms of his last contract: one year's pay and benefits.

Mr. Krings was noncommittal Monday about whether he would agree to that condition.

"I'm willing to talk with the commissioners about my agreement," he said.

Mr. Heimlich has placed the issue on Wednesday's commissioners agenda. The meeting will take place at 9:30 a.m. at Oak Hills High School, 3200 Ebenezer Road.

E-mail candrews@enquirer.com

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