Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Suit filed over Krings contract

Anti-tax group: Deal 'grotesque'

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

An anti-tax group filed suit against Hamilton County on Tuesday in hopes of breaking administrator David Krings' contract.

"It is grotesque in its proportions - the salary, the severance and most of all the clause that triggers his severance without cause and on the mere utterance of a single commissioner," said Chris Finney, attorney for the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes.

Named in the suit are Krings and Commissioners John Dowlin, Todd Portune and Phil Heimlich.

Dowlin, Portune and former Commissioner Tom Neyer approved Krings' contract in December. It didn't increase Krings' annual salary of $179,636, but Heimlich and others have questioned a provision that guaranteed him $434,000-plus if he is ever fired. Krings also could consider himself fired and collect the severance package if even one of the three commissioners suggests he resign, according to the contract.

COAST member Mark Miller, a county resident, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hamilton County residents.

The lawsuit seeks a court order to stop paychecks to Krings and enable commissioners to criticize him, Finney said. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Melba Marsh is scheduled to hear that request at 11 this morning.

"It all strikes me as being very political, but also very premature," Portune said of the lawsuit. "We have passed along issues to the prosecutor to look at, and all three of us have indicated we are willing to renegotiate the contract. And David Krings has indicated a willingness to renegotiate it."

The legal basis of the suit is that commissioners did not get the auditor's certification on the contract, Finney said. State law says the auditor must certify money is available to honor a contract before it's approved. The oversight probably occurred, he said, because the contract wasn't sent to the prosecutor's office for review, as normally happens before commissioners vote.

Auditor Dusty Rhodes asked for a prosecutor's opinion this month on whether Krings' contract is valid. Commissioners submitted their own questions to the prosecutor.


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