THE ENQUIRER: Cincinnati's only daily newspaper recently performed a valuable public service by shining a spotlight on how some little-watched government boards spent money. At a time when most county workers must forego pay raises and take unpaid furlough days to help balance the budget, employees at some independent county agencies quietly got nearly $941,000 in bonuses. The biggest bonus, totaling $24,615, was awarded by the Hamilton County Board of Health to Health Commissioner Tim Ingram, who already earns $197,000 annually. By scouring public records, Enquirer reporters were able to draw attention to the under-the-radar transactions. As a result, county commissioners are asking state legislators to give them enhanced oversight over the boards in which they appoint members, so they might be able to block such questionable decisions in the future. Speaking of bonuses...
COUNTY DDS BOARD: Most of the money — about $820,000 or 87 percent — went to the Hamilton County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services. Even though it came from federal Medicaid cash doled out by the state, it occurred not long after voters approved a five-year, $388 million levy to fund the agency's services. How many private-sector employees do you think received 3 percent bonuses last year? (Hint: It's not many.) In an act of fortuitous timing, Cheryl Phipps, longtime DDS superintendent, announced she planned to retire in fall 2011.
Although Phipps had to announce now as the board was ready to approve another 12-month contract for her, the resignation means the next superintendent will face some difficulty. We predict DDS will have a hard time selling skeptical voters on a renewal next time. If so, board members there have no one to blame but themselves.
JOANN BURTON: When Burton, a 48-year-old homeless woman, pulled a blanket over her July 27 to take a nap on the lawn at Washington Park, she reasonably assumed she wouldn't have to worry about traffic. After all, she wasn't laying on the small road that traversed the six-acre park, which is well-known to have many people lounging there throughout the day. For reasons unknown, however, Police Officer Marty Polk decided to drive his cruiser onto the lawn and over the blanket, crushing Burton to death. While the act certainly was unintentional and probably doesn't meet the legal standard for “recklessness” required to prosecute a felony charge, many people would conclude that Polk was “negligent,” the standard to face a misdemeanor. That wasn't the conclusion of a special prosecutor; as a result, Polk will receive no penalty or discipline for Burton's death. We wonder if someone was crushed at Ault Park in Mount Lookout if the conclusion would've been different. But then, police probably would've taken more care while driving there.
CHIEF TOM STREICHER: Cincinnati's laconic police chief made a special telephone call Oct. 11 to personally apologize to Bengals defensive back Adam “Pacman” Jones. A day earlier, Jones was handcuffed and detained briefly near the Great American Ball Park after an officer, who pulled Jones over for a minor traffic mishap, mistakenly thought the millionaire athlete had an open warrant for his arrest. Once an irate Jones threatened the police with legal action and the police screwup made national headlines, Streicher was quick to reply. Heck, the chief even said it was OK that Jones was mad at the scene. “I would be upset if I were detained for 45 minutes and I haven’t done anything wrong,” Tommy said. (He's so understanding!) We wonder if Streicher called Joann Burton's family to apologize?
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