Tuesday, June 06, 2000

Report blasts city manager

Lebanon prosecutor says felony possible

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The city attorney has issued an opinion that City Manager James Patrick may have committed a felony and violated the city charter in his handling of vacation time for the new electric department director.

        However, City Attorney Mark Yurick said Monday, “it would be difficult to prosecute as a criminal matter if no administrative action is taken.”

        Early indications are that City Council will take no punitive action.

        “If there's a problem, it's in the system,” said Councilman Ben Cole, part of a 5-2 majority that voted against firing Mr. Patrick in May.

        Council members may dis cuss some issues from Mr. Yurick's report at their finance committee meeting tonight. The allegations — that the city manager changed Dave Clark's hours on a master timesheet and gave him 80 hours of vacation time without City Council approval — came to light weeks ago.

        However, Mr. Yurick's investigation, completed Friday, turned up new details and the possibility that Mr. Patrick has continued some practices against his advice. Mr. Patrick had little comment Monday, saying he had not seen the report.

        Obtained by the Enquirer on Monday, Mr. Yurick's report says:

        „Mr. Patrick gave Mr. Clark 80 hours of vacation time and 50 hours of sick time when he started this spring. That's a violation of the city charter, which grants such power only to City Council.

        „Mr. Patrick signed off on a master timesheet that had been changed to say Mr. Clark worked 56 hours instead of 12 hours the last two weeks of April, when he was in the midst of moving. That could be construed as falsification of records, a fifth-degree felony.

        Mr. Patrick has since said it was Acting City Auditor Sharee Dick's idea to make the change. Said Mrs. Dick: “If I'd wanted to change it, I would've” instead of taking the timesheet to Mr. Patrick.

        „After questions were raised about the time-card change, Mr. Clark told his assistant director, Tom Deigel, that salaried employees' time off need not be noted on the payroll record as long as it was less than a week.

        “I am greatly disappointed to learn that false payroll records were filled out and submitted after I specifically advised against it,” the report said. “Council must simply put a stop to it. ... I believe that this practice is unwise and quite possiblyillegal.

        “Certainly this practice, if left unchecked, will erode the public's confidence in their government and its employees,” it said.

        But several council members reached Monday, while still digesting the report, were inclined to consider the issues raised by Mr. Yurick as merely policy problems.

        “We'll fix that,” said Councilman Mark Flick. “We'll set up a procedure.”

        The city manager “went about it wrong, I agree, but none of this was done with malice,” Mr. Cole said.


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