Willie Carden: City manager nominee took improper bonuses, Ohio Ethics Commission ruled

He agreed to repay half, avoided prosecution

CINCINNATI –  City manager nominee Willie Carden could have faced prosecution for improperly taking $61,000 in bonuses from a foundation he controlled as parks director, the Ohio Ethics Commission determined last May.

But the commission permitted Carden and another park board employee who took $37,000 in bonuses to return half of the payments and prevent the matter from being turned over to a prosecutor.

According to the commission report, Carden and Marijane Klug rescued the failing fundraising efforts of the non-profit Cincinnati Parks Foundation. Out of gratitude, the foundation board rewarded them with annual bonuses.

See the report below or CLICK HERE

“In 2003-04, while serving as Parks Board Director, Carden stepped in as the Parks Foundation Executive Director, after the position had become vacant and the Foundation was not faring well,” the commission report says.

Carden brought in Klug, the park board’s manager of financial services, to help, the report says. They were not to receive a salary for their foundation work.  

After their work resulted in “significant increases in private and philanthropic support,” the foundation board decided to pay them bonuses.

Carden got a net of $61,073.82 from January 2005 through December 2010.

Klug got a net of $37,184.83 from December 2004 through December 2010.

The commission said it opened an investigation on June 17, 2011, after someone alleged that Carden had been getting an annual $20,000 “salary enhancement” from the foundation. That investigation led to findings about Klug, and the board started investigating her on Feb. 6, 2012.

“The commission found and the respondents admit that the facts support a potential violation of (Ohio Revised Code) 2921.43 (A)(1) of the Ethics Law due to their acceptance from the private non-profit Foundation of compensation supplemental to their City paid salaries,” the report says.

But the commission allowed for mitigation instead of prosecution, citing the success of their fundraising, the foundation’s promise not to make future payments to park board employees, and Carden’s and Klug’s cooperation in the investigation.

Carden agreed to repay $30,536 and Klug $18,587.

They also got a warning from the commission that “any future alleged violation of Ethics Law … will be fully investigated and, if warranted by the facts, recommended to be prosecuted.”

Mayor John Cranley named Carden to fill the city manager's job last week. City council was originally expected to approve the nomination Tuesday, but it was pushed to next week pending some potential amendments to the city charter pertaining to where Carden can live as city manager. The charter says the city manager has to live in the city of Cincinnati. Carden currently does not.


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