Cleveland Hopkins Finds More Improper Contracts

An internal review at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport has found numerous cases of improper business practices and oversights relating to outside contractors, the airport reported Monday.

But after issuing a news release, airport officials refused to disclose details about the review. They even kept the details from Councilman Kevin Kelley, chairman of the City Council committee that oversees the airport.

"This is bizarre," Kelley said in a telephone interview. "I've got no information. I don't know what the big secret is."

Airport Director Ricky Smith's prepared media statement said a special airport review committee "uncovered numerous cases of improper procurement and business practices" at the airport. The statement said the problems spanned the "last few years."

The news release said contractors and consultants did work without authorization, expired leases continued under old rates and property taxes were "improperly billed." But the statement did not disclose the number of contractors or their names. It did not reveal the depth of the problems or say how much money was lost.

Smith did not return telephone calls Monday. Pat Smith, who was listed on the news release as a contact, said The Plain Dealer would need to file a records request with the city Law Department to obtain more details about the news release.

Kelley, following questions by The Plain Dealer, caught up with Smith during a council committee meeting Monday afternoon. Kelley said Smith told him there was no report on the findings.

Kelley said he asked for specifics about the findings, but Smith declined to tell him. Smith told Kelley the findings would be released by the mayor's office, Kelley said. Mayor Frank Jackson's office later acknowledged a draft report does exist.

Maureen Harper, Jackson's spokeswoman, said late Monday that Smith and his staff were preparing to release portions of the report today.

"There's a draft report, it's just not finalized yet," she said. "The committee is ongoing and they have not yet drafted a final report."

The news release came in the wake of Smith acknowledging last week that the airport violated city law by proceeding with more than $500,000 worth of projects without required approval by City Council.

He blamed deadline pressures and staff turnovers. One of the unauthorized expenses was $456,000 for consulting and re-designing the airport's de-icing system.

Smith told council last week that the airport's $4 million de-icing system, new this year, has problems with the flow of its de-icing chemical because of too many sharp bends in the underground pipes.

He said the contractor, RW Armstrong of Cleveland, will have to unearth and replace the pipes. He said there would be no cost to the city.

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