Council Committee Hears From MSD Investigation Co-Chair
A Cincinnati council committee heard Tuesday from one of the co-chairs of the team investigating alleged irregularities at the Metropolitan Sewer District.
City Manager Harry Black created the panel Monday.
Jim Goetz, who recently retired as the chief financial officer of a local company, is co-chairing the panel with former assistant city manager and city finance director Bill Moller. He testified by council’s Rules and Audit Committee.
“We're doing an internal review certainly as an internal audit would do of any other department or issue that might come up in the city,” Goetz said. “And that we would be free to look at whatever we want and then to prepare a report that is authored by the committee with the two of us as external chairs.”
Goetz was asked about the group's independence since some city employees are part of it.
“I think it's absolutely imperative there has to be people within the organization that is assisting in this review,” Goetz said. “It would take us not three months, but Bill has more background in the nitty-gritty and the functioning of the city than I do, but it would take three years perhaps too get an entire task force up to speed in investigating something like this.”
The team is investigating allegations of mismanagement, potential fraud and irregular contracting practices involving MSD. A report with any findings is expected in about three months.
Black had asked the city solicitor to investigate any allegations; and he has now decided an independent review is in order.
Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething completed a preliminary review of the information. Part of her investigation included information from “a credible, high-level city employee” who shared several observations. The solicitor agreed an independent investigation was appropriate.
“This office has appointed an independent special investigative team to conduct an in-depth inquiry and risk assessment into the allegations of mismanagement, misconduct, and past abuses at the Metropolitan Sewer District, with particular focus on the time period during which the MSD and the Greater Cincinnati Water Works were a joint utility,” Black wrote in a memo to Mayor John Cranley and council members.
A recent newspaper report found the sewer district spent hundreds of millions of public dollars with little or no oversight at a time when residents' sewer rates have risen steadily.
The Cincinnati Enquirer found MSD spent approximately $680 million in the decade following a November 2007 memo from a former city manager that the newspaper says eliminated a checks and balances system.