Reviewer thought courthouse bids in public record

Wednesday, December 2, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON -- A member of the Kenton County team reviewing courthouse - parking garage construction proposals in 1996 said Tuesday he thought the bids were public records from the start.

Architect Bill Hub, who helped review the proposals, testified for an hour and a half before the Kenton County Grand Jury investigating the awarding of the contracts.

"I thought it was an open bid," Mr. Hub said after testifying before the grand jury."Hard to keep it a secret."

The grand jury is examining whether the successful bidder, Corporex Cos. Chairman Bill Butler, violated any laws in winning the contracts for the $36 million projects.

Mr. Butler and his attorneys have said the bidders' proposals were public records available to anyone once they were unveiled April 2, 1996.

Clyde Middleton, the county judge-executive at the time, pleaded guilty in October to a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct in the bidding.

In doing so, he testified he knew that parts of the bids were confidential when he allowed Mr. Butler to see them at his home the night they were opened.

Mr. Hub was a member of the county team that reviewed the three proposals received from area bidders.

He also worked in the late-1980s for Corporex, including mapping the company's downtown Covington master plan.

He has said previously that the work for Corporex did not directly relate to his county work of reviewing proposals for the courthouse from Corporex and the other developers.

The county's deputy judge-executive, George Neack, has said that was a conflict and he wouldn't have hired Mr. Hub if he'd known it.

Mr. Hub disagrees, saying his work for Corporex on the Covington plans consisted of little more than drawing an outline on a map. The drawings show a parking garage and office building where the county's garage and courthouse are being built.

City development documents from that time do not address a courthouse in the area, just buildings in general terms, such as an office or hotel.

Mr. Hub also has pointed out that he had done work in the past for one of the other bidders.

Mr. Hub said Tuesday that he still believes the entire investigation and civil litigation surrounding the bidding are much ado about nothing.

A suit by the losing bidders led to an $850,000 settlement between the county and those bidders.

The county has a lawsuit pending against Corporex and Mr. Butler, claiming interference in the bidding and seeking reimbursement. The grand jury's hearing Tuesday marked its fifth day on the Butler investigation. Testimony will resume Thursday, when Corporex Senior Vice President Tom Banta and county architect Rob Thrun are expected to finish their testimony.

Corporex secretary Elva Malott also testified for almost 90 minutes. She declined comment after leaving the grand jury room. County Treasurer Ivan Frye also testified for an hour and a half. He declined to comment afterward, but said nothing surprised him during the session.

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