Thursday, February 13, 2003

Recreation tiff prompts call for new ethics rule

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

As Cincinnati City Council mulls a compromise plan to get more money to fix up recreation facilities, two council members are proposing a revamp of city ethics rules that would prohibit recreation employees from lobbying for more money.

Pat DeWine and John Cranley, angered by what they saw as a lobbying campaign orchestrated by city recreation employees, said they want the city manager to draft new rules barring the practice.

"It's the kind of thing you would think we wouldn't need a policy," DeWine said.

The council members are upset at efforts by James Garges, city recreation director, to build support for Councilman David Crowley's proposal to "borrow" $6.5 million of neighborhood development money to fix facilities like Westwood Town Hall and the Millvale Recreation Center.

Garges said it was an informational campaign, but DeWine said he crossed the line when he told supervisors to hit the community council circuit to tell recreation boosters to call and write council members and come to a committee meeting.

Crowley said the rules were appropriate, but said what Garges did was part of the legitimate role of a department head to disseminate information.

"It's an insult to all those people to say that they were only here because some recreation supervisor roused them up and got them out," he said.

Also Wednesday, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece proposed an alternative plan that would find $5.5 million from other capital accounts to fix up recreation facilities. That compromise plan will go to the finance committee.


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