Thursday, June 08, 2000

Go ahead and buy office supplies, Lebanon told

Confusion arose over contract rule

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The city can continue to buy office supplies, City Attorney Mark Yurick said Wednesday.

        That clarification came af ter a finance committee meeting Tuesday that increased confusion about what spending the city manager can authorize. Several officials said City Manager James Patrick told his staff Wednesday that nothing could be bought without City Council approval.

        “I didn't tell him to shut the entire city down,” Mr. Yurick said.

        The attorney told the committee Tuesday night that all contracts must be approved by council. Many council members and others were under the impression that a purchase order is the same as a contract, but that's not correct, Mr. Yurick said Wednesday.

        The city manager can spend up to $15,000 at a time on supplies if the sup plies have been budgeted by City Council and the purchasing manager has gotten three quotes for them, Mr. Yurick said.

        The situation must be straightened out quickly, said Councilman Mark Flick, finance committee chairman, although there were no reports of city departments having problems related to the spending freeze.

        “It could be a major problem,” Mr. Flick said. “It just needs to be defined.”

        Mr. Yurick could issue an opinion today on what the charter requires council to approve. The questions arose Tuesday before he'd finished his report.

        The issue came up recently when a minority of council members raised concerns that Mr. Patrick was over stepping his authority in approving contracts that were supposed to go to council.

        City managers have historically signed off on deals of less than $10,000, officials agree, but the charter does not set such a bar. That can be changed only through a charter amendment, Mr. Yurick said.

        Mr. Patrick could not be reached for comment.


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