over $13.5 million Banks attorney fee insider deal
while Commissioners confront elimination of promised tax rollback
Two sad chapters in this story are playing out not in the halls of the County Commission and the Ohio Supreme Court. Here’s an update:
· Prosecutor Joe Deters and Hamilton County’s Judges have criticized the contract of Ohio law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease that has sucked more than $13.5 million from the taxpayers since 2002 for legal work on the Stadium and Banks projects. In October, Hamilton County’s Judges, who under Ohio statute are permitted to authorize such outside legal contracts, revoked the agreement, forcing a showdown between Commissioners Pepper and Portune and the judges. On Friday, the Commissioners filed a bizarre suit, with themselves acting as attorneys, against their own Judges at the Ohio Supreme Court. COAST has sent the Prosecutor a taxpayer demand letter seeking to sue the Commissioners over the continuation of the illegal contract. Under the letter, Deters either must sue the Commissioners himself or allow COAST attorneys to do so on his behalf. Portune and Pepper receive thousands of dollars in campaign contributions through their contacts at the Vorys firm.
· Also, this month, the chickens finally come home to roost on the massive over-spending in the stadium sales tax fund, including the recent massive over-spending on the Banks project. As COAST reported here and here, when the stadium sales tax was passed, a solemn promise made to the taxpayers was that 30% of the revenue from the ½ cent sales tax would be devoted to property tax reduction. Both Pepper and Portune have made explicit campaign promises to retain the rollback, not just as a matter of lower taxes, but as an article of faith with the voters.
Still, when confronted with the option of cutting spending or eliminating the sacrosanct rollback in September, Portune and Pepper opted instead to take on $5.5 million more in debt in the fund for just several months, making elimination of the rollback almost a foregone conclusion.
So, prepare to be screwed again by our liberal democrats on the Commission in the next few weeks.