BY ANNE MICHAUD and LISA DONOVAN
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Former Metropolitan Sewer District Director Tom Quinn did not follow policy in awarding a big consulting contract to an acquaintance, according to Cincinnati's internal auditor.
The report concluded that Mr. Quinn acted without having the city manager and county administrator sign off on his decisions. MSD is owned by Hamilton County and operated by the city.
The report comes a week after Mr. Quinn resigned amid allegations of mismanagement. He has denied any wrongdoing.
The audit was made after questions were raised about Mr. Quinn encouraging a subcontractor, BBS Corp., to hire an acquaintance, Richard Allen, without following the city's competitive bidding rules.
While the city allows this in certain circumstances, city auditor Greg Hanfbauer said those were no longer applicable when Mr. Quinn extended the contract twice for a total of three years. In one year, Mr. Allen earned as much as $304,000 under the contract.
In addition, BBS was receiving a 2 percent overhead payment to act as a middleman between MSD and Mr. Allen, when BBS no longer had a contract on this project with the sewer district.
"Based on the weight of documentary evidence we reviewed and testimony of BBS and MSD officials, we concluded that the primary function of BBS was to act as a conduit for Allen's payments," Mr. Hanfbauer said.
In a second report, the city auditor's office reaffirmed that Mr. Quinn waived a "substantial sum" of fees to tap into the sewer system.
By one MSD official's estimate, nearly $2 million was waived. "Mr. Quinn acted unilaterally here," Mr. Hanfbauer said. Mr. Quinn's administration is the subject of a grand jury probe as well as city and Hamilton County audits.
Also on Thursday, the city manager passed over internal MSD candidates to name Paul E. Tomes acting director. Mr. Tomes has been the chief engineer of the Cincinnati Water Works since 1983. His appointment takes effect Monday.
The appointment passes over Michael Sweeney, MSD deputy director, who has been filling in for a week since Mr. Quinn resigned.
Mr. Quinn had worked with Mr. Sweeney in Indianapolis and hired him as second-in-command at MSD shortly after Mr. Quinn's arrival five years ago.
In his job with the Water Works, Mr. Tomes is responsible for a five-year construction program totaling $190 million. Before that, he was an engineer with the city's public works department for nine years. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati and is a professional engineer, registered in Ohio.
Mr. Shirey said he asked Mr. Tomes to provide interim leadership until a permanent director can be chosen.
"I am confident that his strong leadership, background and experience will enable him to handle the responsibilities of this position," Mr. Shirey said in a written statement.
Mr. Tomes issued a statement as well: "My primary focus in this interim period will be on enlisting the skills and talents of the dedicated staff at MSD to improve community confidence in the agency."