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January 30th, 2009 By | News | Posted In: City Council, Community

IIN Is Down, but Not Out

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Cincinnati City Council’s Finance Committee recently decided not to extend the contract of a controversial organization for a full year amid allegations questioning how that group distributes taxpayer dollars to neighborhood groups.

The Finance Committee initially voted 5-2 last week to reject an extension for Invest In Neighborhoods Inc. (IIN). After the tally was taken, City Councilman Cecil Thomas — who had abstained earlier — changed his vote, making the decision 5-3.

Members voting against the extension were Thomas, Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, David Crowley, Leslie Ghiz and Greg Harris. Those who wanted to extend the contract were Laketa Cole and Roxanne Qualls. (Chris Monzel isn’t a committee member.)

Although IIN’s contract currently expires in March, a move is afoot behind the scenes to extend it as part of a compromise.

City Hall sources say Mayor Mark Mallory will introduce a proposal at the Feb. 4 council meeting that would extend the contract for another six months, through September. Meanwhile, a new process would be created to select a contractor to administer the funds in 2010.

Mallory was slated to introduce the proposal at this week’s meeting, but it was cancelled due to the snowstorm.

IIN is circulating a survey among community council members in an attempt to bolster its support.

Last week’s issue of CityBeat featured an article about allegations involving IIN, the non-profit organization that’s administered and distributed money from City Hall to community councils for years. Allegations include that IIN’s close-knit executive committee is overly secretive about its procedures, covers up financial problems, doesn’t follow its own code of ethics and engages in insider dealing by awarding contracts to friends.

The allegations surfaced after a dispute last year over hiring a new IIN director. After the flap, seven people on IIN’s 17-member Board of Trustees who defied the executive committee were ousted. Another three board members quit in protest, meaning nearly 60 percent of the trustees were replaced.

Trustees who were ousted are Susan Doucleff (Mount Washington), Jenny Edwards and David Petersen (West End), Kathy Garrison (Madisonville), Betty Kamuf (Sayler Park), Maureen Mello (Paddock Hills), and Michele Murphy (Clifton).

In this week’s CityBeat, North Avondale resident Marvin Kraus — an executive committee member who also serves as IIN’s attorney — wrote a letter to the editor disputing some of their allegations.

IIN’s critics responded that the letter omitted key details about the dispute and didn’t address some allegations.

Among them, the letter states that community councils are not a creation of municipal government, like a city councilman claimed in the article. Although that’s technically true, critics replied, the community councils must be certified by the city to receive any neighborhood support funds.

Also, critics added that the executive committee led a smear campaign against the person originally selected as director and accessed private information to investigate the person’s background without her written permission and without the board's knowledge and approval. The action may violate federal privacy laws, and certainly violated IIN rules, they said.

Executive committee members countered that they had verbal permission to do so.

 
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