Porkopolis

Monday, July 03, 2006

Another Mallory Insider Appointed

City Council’s hectic final meeting before summer recess last week included a mayoral appointment that stirred some debate about whether the independence of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission (CHRC) has been compromised.

Mayor Mark Mallory nominated his chief of staff, Carla Walker, to sit on the CHRC’s board of directors. Council confirmed the appointment in an 8-1 vote, with Republican Leslie Ghiz opposed.

Because the mayor’s office drafts the proposed city budget that is presented to city council every fall, and the CHRC receives funding from the city, Ghiz is worried that Mallory — through Walker — will have too much influence in the CHRC’s decisions.

“I think it’s a terrible conflict of interest to have your chief of staff sitting on the CHRC board,” Ghiz said.

The commission received $415,000 from the city in the current budget.

Mallory made no public comments about the appointment but council members Laketa Cole and Cecil Thomas, both Democrats, defended Walker’s selection. Cole noted that then-Mayor Charlie Luken appointed his aide, Bernadette Watson, to sit on the Community Action Agency’s board of directors.

“This is not a precedent,” Cole said.

Also, Thomas, who was the CHRC’s executive director until he quit to run for council, said the city manager used to appoint an ex-officio member to CHRC’s board. Ghiz replied that the Community Action Agency (CAA) receives funding from multiple sources including the city, Hamilton County and federal programs, unlike the CHRC, which relies almost entirely on the city. Further, the CHRC’s ex-officio member didn’t have voting rights and was there mostly to monitor the group’s action to report to the city. That position was eliminated years ago by then-City Manager John Shirey.

“There has to be some independence on that board,” Ghiz said. “Every time an issue comes up, they’re going to look to Carla for an answer about where the mayor stands on it.”

The CHRC’s contract with the city includes a conflict of interest section that states, “Service provider agrees that no officer, employee or agent of city who exercises any functions or responsibilities in connection with the planning and carrying out of the program, nor any immediate family member, close business associate or organization which is about to employ any such person, shall have any personal financial interest, direct or indirect, in service provider or in this agreement, and service provider shall take appropriate steps to assure compliance.”

Also, the CHRC’s previous contract with the city, from 2003, had a section entitled, “Political Activity Prohibited,” which affirmed that no “officer or employee” of CHRC can engage in political activity for any candidate, party or cause. It is not included in the current contract.

Walker is former director of the Hamilton County Democratic Party and was an aide to Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

This isn’t the first time Walker has spurred city council debate. Mallory hired her at an annual salary of $76,000, then later asked council to approve a higher range for the position, increasing the maximum amount from $64,900 to $95,500. Some council members criticized Mallory’s process, but they approved the request. Even if it hadn’t, Mallory said at the time, Walker could have worked most of the year and would leave when she hit the $64,900 mark.

Since taking office in December, Mallory also has appointed another aide, Shawn Butler, to the CAA’s board; and appointed his father, former Ohio House Majority Leader William Mallory Sr., to the transit board that oversees the Metro bus system. Like Walker’s position, the board appointments are voluntary and receive no compensation.

— Kevin Osborne

7 Comments:

  • Speaking of insider appointments and political influence, when will you cover Phil Heimlich's consistent appointment of his real estate business partner Christopher P. Finney to several influential boards?

    (I figure I may as well ask before the anonymous commenter at the Enquirer Blog beats me to it. You know, the guy everyone thinks is me anyway!)

    By Blogger The Dean of Cincinnati, at 4:20 PM  

  • if you are attending meetings while on the clock for the city, then esentially - you ARE being compensated for your time , by the city for your services unless the contract or legislation requires the appointment of a person from an entity in their official capacity. technically, there appears to be an issue here unles she can somehow distinguih her time -which a chief of staff - is pretty much impossible.

    By Anonymous one advocate, at 2:54 AM  

  • On issue after issue, Mallory's judgment seems fundamentally flawed. The whole 7 months looks like one big power grab.

    The CHRC Board will be paying close attention to one member--the one who works directly for the guy who controls their budget. It could easily become just an arm of his office, and his PR machine.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:31 AM  

  • Carla is fine addition to the CHRC. Ghiz needs to get over herself and stop sticking pins in her Mallory doll.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:11 AM  

  • Mallory Doll?
    I'll take a D4S.
    I've got a silver RR spike.
    Your Pal,
    Vlad the Impaler

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:12 PM  

  • I find it very telling that very few people commented when Charlie Luken used his last few weeks in office to appoint many of his pals to various board positions. Mark Mallory has not exercised any more or less power than Charlie Luken did during his time in office. The old Cincinnati double standard is once again rearing its ugly head.

    By Blogger Monica, at 2:09 PM  

  • Double standard for what? Are you somehow trying to make this a racial issue?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:06 AM  

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