Thursday, May 22, 2003

Milford deal called secretive


Mayor says actions proper

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MILFORD - Some residents want the Clermont County prosecutor to look into possible violations of the Open Meetings Act by certain city leaders.

During a council meeting Tuesday, former council member John Aufdenkampe called for the investigation.

Aufdenkampe alleges that four members of city council acted improperly in connection with a plan to help pay for a private Hamilton County country club's Fourth of July fireworks display.

He contended that this month, Mayor James Antell made calls to three council members and asked them to support the proposal before it was presented to the full, seven-member City Council.

Antell denied any wrongdoing Tuesday night, calling the allegations "ridiculous." He said an official with Terrace Park County Club, of which he is a member, asked him if the club might partner with Milford to sponsor the club's annual Fourth of July fireworks show. Terrace Park sits southwest of Milford, just across the Little Miami River.

The show, officials said, would have been billed as a city event, the city would chip in half the cost - $2,900, and residents would be able to watch the show from a location near club grounds.

"They were looking for a way to save money. I thought it was a pretty good idea," the mayor said. "I said: 'I think I have the votes.' We thought we could do a little good for the community."

Milford City Manager Loretta Rokey said the mayor asked her to approve a check for $2,900. She declined, saying it was a matter that should go before council.

City Law Director Michael Minniear said that while some actions may have been "ill-advised" he doesn't believe any open meetings statutes were violated.

The issue, though discussed by council and the Public Service Committee, never came up for an actual vote. "The mayor was running this as a trial balloon - to see is it a good idea. ... He floated the balloon and it didn't fly," Minniear said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Clermont County prosecutor's office had not been contacted.

During Tuesday's meeting Councilman David Metz, who chairs the Public Service Committee, recommended the event be held next year.

It would work better at a venue with adequate parking and open space, easily accessible by the public, he said.

Metz noted that Terrace Park Country Club has no additional parking. Also, its exclusivity bars nonmembers. The general public would have to watch the show from a patch of land across the street from the club.

E-mail: mmccain@enquirer.com




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