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The Blame Stops Here

By Doug Trapp · April 13th, 2000 · Burning Questions
In January, the Cincinnati city engineer and two principal engineers were placed on paid administrative leave for at least poor recordkeeping of city street repairs from 1991 to 1997 and possibly for filing intentionally misleading reports. A former senior engineer who quit the department in 1998 also is named in the investigation.

A city internal audit finished in December concluded that city engineers reported 818 lane miles of road repairs at a cost of $65 million but that only 460 miles were actually repaired at a cost of $50.5 million.

In late February, Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken, not satisfied with the answers he was hearing, asked for an outside audit of the road spending. A few weeks later he received just that when the Federal Bureau of Investigations started its own inquiry on grounds that the road work involved federal money.

But what about those engineers' boss at the time, former Public Works Director John Hamner, who headed the department from 1993 to 1996 before retiring in 1998? Shouldn't Hamner also be held responsible for his employees' work?

Although many other causes were cited concerning the street problem, a Jan.

20 follow-up report to the December audit concluded that the situation's "magnitude and persistence is indicative of far more serious shortcomings in the Engineering Division's management and operations. Staff have not been effectively supervised and key management controls have been neutralized or circumvented."

City Auditor Greg Hanfbauer, who conducted the audit that led to the actions and who wrote the follow-up report, said City Manager John Shirey decided to put the three employees on leave after considering the flow of work in the department.

In any case, Hanfbauer wants to make one thing clear: The $15 million in question isn't missing. It's simply a matter of sorting out what was spent where.

Attempts to reach Shirey were unsuccessful. John Deatrick, director of Transportation and Engineering -- the department formed from Public Works in 1999 to handle the city's road repairs -- also said the decision was Shirey's.



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