Thursday, April 24, 2003

City Hall


Booth's last gift: employee bonus

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Just before he left City Council to accept a gubernatorial appointment to the State Personnel Board of Review, Paul Booth gave a $4,000 bonus to his chief of staff.

And now, Mayor Charlie Luken said, his successor will have trouble making payroll.

With five years at City Hall - an eternity by council assistant standards - Ron Mosby made $46,987 a year, not including the 11th-hour bonus.

Booth called it a "gross pay adjustment" - a budgetary mechanism intended to correct clerical errors, but often used by council members to give end-of-the-year bonuses to their employees.

It's nothing new. After the Enquirer reported on it in 1992, a committee appointed by then-Mayor Dwight Tillery condemned the practice, but did nothing about it.

Luken said it's one thing to do it at the end of the year. To do it at the end of your career is another.

"If you're going to walk out on a term you're elected to, that's your choice. But you shouldn't do it in a way that injures your successor," he said.

Booth said Mosby earned the money.

"I felt it was warranted because of endless, endless hours that were put in over the years, and he was never paid any overtime or anything like that," Booth said.

Booth noted that he returned more money to the city treasury than any other councilman last year, and said he shouldn't be penalized for running an efficient office.

"There are some-high budget employees around. Come to think of it, Charlie has some of them," Booth said. (Luken's chief of staff, Bernadette Watson, makes $60,256.)

Councilwoman Laketa Cole, meanwhile, said she's been scrounging. After a frantic office-swap, Booth's successor was left with drawer-less desks, no pens, nary a scrap of paper to write on and - despite attempts by third-floor staffers to surreptitiously squirrel away some of Booth's old chairs for her - nowhere to sit.

Said Cole: "A council member came in the other day to talk, and I said, 'Have a seat.' And they said, 'Where?' I said, 'Exactly.'"

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Suit yourself: It's City of Cincinnati v. City of Cincinnati in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

That's right, the city is suing itself.

Last week, seven members of the Cincinnati Retirement System Board of Trustees filed suit against the city of Cincinnati, claiming the pension fund is owed perhaps as much as $15 million. They say city employees contributed to their insurance costs, and so should have shared in the windfall when insurer Anthem Inc. issued stock.

Actually, seven trustees of the pension fund, acting in their capacity as city taxpayers, filed the lawsuit. They took the action after City Solicitor Rita McNeil told them that the pension fund was a city agency with no right to sue the city.

The trustees suing the city include Councilwoman Minette Cooper, labor boss Dan Radford and Assistant City Solicitor Ely Ryder.

The latter plaintiff particularly irks Mayor Luken, who's still fuming over Assistant City Solicitor Rick Ganulin's 1998 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Christmas holiday, and Assistant City Solicitor Steve Fagel's service as a grand juror in the Ron Twitty case.

It's Municipal Law 101, he said: City lawyers are supposed to be defending the city from lawsuits.

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Campaign trail: Republican Pat DeWine raised an estimated $80,000 from a $150-a-plate fund-raising breakfast featuring former Columbus Mayor Greg Lashutka Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency. DeWine said he would have had an even better turnout, but a lot of big givers were out of town.

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Quotable: "I got jack squat. I might as well be living in a van down by the river."

- Republican Chris Monzel, after learning he was passed over for two coveted committee assignments left by Booth's departure. Monzel said his party affiliation probably had something to do with it.

David Pepper will be vice chairman of the Law and Public Safety Committee. Cole will be vice chairwoman of the Neighborhoods and Public Works Committee.

City Hall reporter Gregory Korte can be reached at gkorte@enquirer.com or 768-8391.




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