Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Drake halts TV ads paid by levy


Heimlich, Portune asked hospital to pull campaign to avoid appearance of impropriety

By Cindi Andrews
Enquirer staff writer

Drake Center Inc. will comply with a Hamilton County commissioner's request the hospital stop using levy dollars on advertising until after the November election, a Drake spokeswoman said Tuesday.

"The bottom line is that potential patients get to choose where they go. People need to be aware of what Drake offers in order to know how to get the best care for their conditions," spokeswoman Kathy Graham said. "With all that said, we are sensitive to the concerns raised by commissioners (Phil) Heimlich and (Todd) Portune."

In a letter earlier this month , Heimlich asked Drake to pull a $500,000 advertising campaign he felt was geared to elling voters on a new levy for Drake. Portune agreed Drake should pull its ads to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

"I'm glad they've chosen to obey the spirit of the law by ceasing this media blitz," Heimlich said, referring to the prohibition against using levy money to pass a levy.

The long-term, acute-care hospital is asking county commissioners to let them seek a $99 million, five-year levy on Nov. 2 - a 39 percent increase over its expiring levy. The county's Tax Levy Review Committee recommended a $94 million levy, but two conservatives on the committee, criticizing Drake's costs, suggested a $15 million levy.

Graham said some advertising will stay - such as billboards Drake has already committed to and ads for its independently run assisted-living facility - but the rest will be pulled until after the election.

Heimlich also demanded an apology for how Drake responded to his inquiry about an e-mail criticizing Tax Levy Review Committee Chairman Chris Finney.

Asked if e-mail writer Maureen Godshall had any financial relationship with Drake, hospital President Roberta Bradford replied the hospital "is not involved in the e-mail referenced." Godshall is president of Drake's advertising agency, Loren/Allan/Odioso Advertising.

Drake attorney John Kelley Jr. repeated Drake's contention that it was not involved with the e-mail.

"They continue to duck the question," Heimlich said. "What they're saying is that the person who heads up their advertising can personally attack the chairman of the committee appointed to review their levy and Drake can claim it has nothing to do with them. That's more than I'm willing to swallow."

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E-mail candrews@enquirer.com




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