Friday, April 2, 2004

Engineer leaves 6 cities without one

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Six Northern Kentucky cities are scrambling to find a new city engineer after their long-time contract employee, David Estes, abruptly quit two weeks ago.

A copy of Estes' resignation letter obtained by the Enquirer said that he was leaving as director of engineering at Foppe Technical Group Inc. on March 19 but did not give a reason. The company's president, Lawrence Foppe, told a Northern Kentucky official that Estes left with one day's notice.

"This act was not only unprofessional, but in direct violation of our asset purchase agreement and our employment agreement with Mr. Estes," Foppe wrote in a March 25 letter to Jill Bailey, Taylor Mill city administrator. "It also left Foppe Technical Group and all of our staff in the very difficult position of trying to sort out his projects and commitments since his office was virtually empty."

Bailey said she learned of Estes' departure when a representative of a concrete company called last week to check on the status of his bid.

"I said I'd have to check with our engineer and they said, 'He's no longer an engineer,' " Bailey said. When Bailey reached Estes on his cell phone, he told her he had given Foppe two weeks notice and is now working in California.

Callers to Estes' Independence office are referred to Foppe Technical Group. Representatives of that company did not return phone calls Thursday.

Bailey said she understood that Estes had a noncompete clause in his contract that prevented him from doing business in Greater Cincinnati after he left Foppe.

Estes' departure leaves the cities of Fort Mitchell, Taylor Mill, Crescent Springs, Villa Hills, Ludlow and Union without an engineer to plan and oversee projects such as street reconstruction, and repairs and sewer work.

Ruth Meadows, an assistant to the city clerk in Union, wasn't aware of Estes' resignation when contacted on Wednesday. As word of Estes' departure spread, representatives of several other cities said they tried without success to reach Estes and Foppe for an explanation and to get their records.

Villa Hills Mayor Mike Sadouskas said Estes attended that city's March 17 council meeting, but didn't mention his resignation.

Most of the cities that contracted with Estes said they're drawing up proposals for his replacement and are talking with other engineering firms.

Fort Mitchell Administrator Bill Goetz said that Kenton County suburb had planned to spend about $500,000 reconstructing much of Thompson and Brice Avenues this spring. With the switch to a new engineering firm, that work will be delayed, he said.

"We're talking with some other engineers to see if they can take us on," Goetz said. "We have a fairly aggressive street repair and street reconstruction program. We don't want to fall behind."


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