Monday, November 11, 2002

Monitor no stranger to controversy

Kalmanoff left some customers unsatisfied

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

In cities more than 1,000 miles apart, officials who have never met use the same angry words to describe Dr. Alan Kalmanoff.

They say the Berkeley, Calif., lawyer appointed to oversee reforms in Cincinnati's police department created political and financial controversies to mask his inability to deliver contracts.

A former Summit County, Ohio, attorney: "He failed to deliver what he was hired to do. He created a smokescreen so he didn't have to perform."

A Hillsborough County, Fla., official: "He found out he wasn't going to be making any money on the contract so he did everything he could do to get out of it ... like a smoke screen."

Dr. Kalmanoff has been praised time and again as a tireless champion of truth who will not bow to political pressure. Judges, professors and police chiefs say his studies and investigations have led to significant government reforms and have saved taxpayers millions.

But among the hundreds of counties and cities where Dr. Kalmanoff has been hired to streamline prison systems, conduct audits and head corruption probes, several agencies report problems that aren't mentioned in his resume: Fights over bills, political firestorms, unfulfilled duties, exaggerated results.

Those are some of the same reasons why Cincinnati's mayor and City Council say they want to oust Dr. Kalmanoff only three weeks after he was tapped by a federal judge to monitor two historic legal settlements the city made in April to improve community-police relations.

Incensed over a $55,000 bill from Dr. Kalmanoff - including charges for packing and preparing for travel, an interview with an Enquirer reporter and attending a banquet - city officials vowed not to pay him and are demanding U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott replace him.

Dr. Kalmanoff did not respond to repeated calls this week or to e-mails about the criticisms he has faced in other cities.

But this isn't the first time a government agency has refused to pay his bill.

`He wasn't doing his job'

In 1996, Dr. Kalmanoff bailed out of a $53,000 contract for a performance audit of the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission, an agency that oversees development issues in the Tampa area.

In a letter to commissioners, Dr. Kalmanoff said he wasn't given the autonomy to do a proper job. Planning commissioners said Dr. Kalmanoff quit because he severely underbid the job.

"He wanted to make a whole damn bunch of money and he didn't want to do anything for it," former planning commissioner Ed Dees says. "I was on his side until I found out he wasn't doing his job."

Although it happened six years ago, Mr. Dees is still rankled.

"It was either his way or the highway," Mr. Dees says. "You ought to get rid of him. If this guy does what he did with us, you're not going to have a good experience."

When Dr. Kalmanoff resigned, he left the planning commission with an $11,364 bill that included $2,200 in travel expenses and $5,100 for conducting six interviews. The commission voted unanimously not to pay.

Barbara Leiby, administrative services manager for the commission, says conflicts arose soon after Dr. Kalmanoff was given three boxes of documents to review prior to the audit.

"There were specific things we wanted him to do," she says. "He found them so objectionable that he himself became personally objectionable."

Ms. Leiby says Dr. Kalmanoff was chosen in part because of the high regard officials in Tampa and Hillsborough County had for his study of the police and sheriff's departments in 1994. But she says her agency found him to be intractable - and she believes much of that was aimed at getting out of the contract.

"Our understanding of the contract was different than his understanding," she says.

In California's San Joaquin County, officials also had a dispute with Dr. Kalmanoff over money. This time, the issue had nothing to do with bills, but with Dr. Kalmanoff's alleged claims that he saved taxpayers $10 million.

Hired in 1995 to review the justice system in the central-valley county, Dr. Kalmanoff promised to save the county millions of dollars. But those savings never materialized, and three years later officials said they would stop providing Dr. Kalmanoff with a reference because he continued telling clients that he had saved the county $10 million.

Deputy County Administrator Stephanie Larsen confirms the dispute.

She says Dr. Kalmanoff made the point that the county not only saved money but avoided costs as a result of his $125,000 study.

"They did implement a number of his recommendations," Ms. Larsen says. "He made about 90 recommendations."

Although former County Administrator David Baker told reporters in 1998 that he would no longer provide Dr. Kalmanoff with a reference, Dr. Kalmanoff listed Mr. Baker on his application for Cincinnati monitor. There is no mention of money.

"Evaluated the entire county criminal justice system resulting in the development of an action plan to improve overall system performance and efficiency," the application states.

An extensive oversight resume

Dr. Kalmanoff, who prefers to be called "Kal," heads the nonprofit Institute for Law and Policy Planning, in Berkeley, Calif. It was founded in 1973.

His background includes extensive work as a consultant to police departments in San Jose, Salt Lake City, Orlando and Minneapolis. He also was appointed to make sure California state prisons complied with a federal settlement that required improvements in prison conditions.

In Cincinnati, his job is to enforce deadlines in two landmark settlements that ended a federal civil rights investigation of the police department and suspended a lawsuit by a group of African-American activists who accused police of discrimination.

The monitor will oversee the police department's overhaul of training, use-of-force policies and citizen complaint procedures, and will review efforts by community groups to improve community-police relations.

Judge Dlott appointed Dr. Kalmanoff on Oct. 10 after becoming convinced the parties involved in the settlements - the city, the police union, the Department of Justice and the Black United Front activist group - could not agree on one of 11 candidates for the job.

The judge has declined to comment on Dr. Kalmanoff since appointing him.

Dr. Kalmanoff's team of 19 legal and police experts will be joined next year by retiring Ohio Supreme Court Justice Andrew Douglas.

Under terms of the two agreements, the city is responsible for paying the monitor costs. Dr. Kalmanoff previously has told the Enquirer that the bill could be $7 million over the next five years, though City Council says the tab must be capped at $1 million per year.

But last week, city officials threatened to pull out of the agreements because of Dr. Kalmanoff's unwillingness to answer questions about his job and because of the $55,000 bill.

It's for creating that kind of political firestorm that Dr. Kalmanoff is remembered in Akron's Summit County.

A controversial report

"I think a lot of people didn't want to hear the truth," says Summit County Assistant Sheriff Larry Givens. "I have a lot of respect for his willingness to say what is on his mind."

Mr. Givens was a Summit County Council member when Dr. Kalmanoff was hired in 2000 to review the county's justice system.

"It was a sound report and I think people got their money's worth," he says. "I think a lot of people may have perceived it as something to be politicized, when it shouldn't have been."

But Jim Lawrence, founder and president of Oriana House, which provides alternative sentencing for the county, says Dr. Kalmanoff used the report like a political mallet.

"Dr. Kalmanoff has one way to do things. And if you don't do it, then he will find ways to paint you in a negative light," Mr. Lawrence says. "I saw (the report) as a veiled threat. No question about it."

The $195,000 report said county officials had allowed Oriana House to become a monopoly.

But Mr. Lawrence says the report was full of half-truths and rumors. He accuses Dr. Kalmanoff of using the report to demand a letter of recommendation. He says Dr. Kalmanoff told him if he refused, the report would blast Oriana House.

"I have demanded a retraction from Dr. Kalmanoff for what I believe are factual errors," Mr. Lawrence says.

Linda Parnnell, one-time general counsel to former Summit County Executive Tim Davis, says the report was out of line.

"Kalmanoff failed to deliver what he was hired to do," she says. "I think Oriana House became a political casualty."

She says Dr. Kalmanoff - who once asked for a police escort when he came to speak to the county council -overstepped his bounds and helped fan the flames of a political fire in order to avoid delivering a complete report.

She calls it a smoke screen.

"The report was a whole spiral of what could happen. A lot of it was speculative," Ms.Parnnell says.

Mr. Givens disagrees. He says the report pointed to needed changes.

"Overall, the report stated, let's get on with it," he said. "It said we can do a better job."

Kal won't back down

When you hire Dr. Kalmanoff, you have to be prepared for the message, says Robert Houtman, former county chair in Kalamazoo, Mich.

"If he didn't make people upset, he wouldn't be doing his job," he says.

In 2000, Kalamazoo County hired Dr. Kalmanoff for an estimated $300,000 report on improving the justice system.

But this year, when officials were trying to use his 300-page report to justify a bond issue for a new jail, Dr. Kalmanoff came back at the request of an anti-tax group.

He criticized the county's justice system and chastised officials for making no effort to implement his plan.

"They tried to twist (the report) around and use it as an advocate," says Mr. Houtman, who now lives in Florida. "Kalmanoff caught them with their pants down."

But other Kalamazoo officials say Dr. Kalmanoff went too far and lost his objectivity. They say he attacked them personally when they disagreed with him.

Mr. Hautman says Kalamazoo needed Dr. Kalmanoff.

"He isn't afraid to take anybody on."


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