CINCINNATI – The FBI is already investigating Metropolitan Sewer District operations. Next in line, the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Auditor’s Office will look at the MSD.
Following the release of a highly critical audit this week, officials said the general feeling is that if any of those investigations uncover criminal wrongdoing, the responsible parties should go to jail.
As the owner of Baron Engraving in Price Hill, Pete Witte has endured years of steadily increasing sewer rates impacting his bottom line.
“I have very few things that we’re dealing with, other than health insurance, that we look at these kinds of increases every year,” he said.
But when Witte heard the results of the city audit alleging mismanagement and poor financial oversight, he wasn’t happy.
“I’m angry,” Witte said.
So, who’s to blame? The county, which owns the system? The city, which runs it? Both? Witte has his own ideas.
“I think Tony Parrott,” Witte said. “I think [former] City Manager Milton Dohoney. I think ultimately it gets back to [former] Mayor Mark Mallory.”
Parrott was the MSD director at the time Dohoney gave him free reign to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to separate storm and waste water.
Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel said he wants accountability.
“If there are criminal charges that are going to be filed, yes, somebody could actually get jail time for this,” he said.
Mayor John Cranley said the¬¬ issue needs to be looked into more.
“If something criminal was done, it should be firmly investigated and we will cooperate completely,” he said.
Councilmember Kevin Flynn plans to review the changes that have already been made at MSD on Tuesday at the rules and audit committee he chairs, and acknowledged “there’s at least the possibility that criminal or ethics violations occurred.”
Flynn said he had already contacted the Ohio Ethics Commission.
“I find it hard to believe that people didn’t know this was wrong,” he said.
By the end of June, current MSD Director Gerald Checco is expected to announce that he’s already reduced the number of contracts given to outside consultants by 60 percent.