by Kyle Swenson
Tell us if this sounds familiar. A business lands a contract with a government entity. Both parties lock in on the terms and figures, and the whole deal gets rubber-stamped by the legislators. But . . . somehow . . . mysteriously . . . somewhere along the line . . . the numbers involved start heading skyward and the business walks away with a higher billing, and the government entity tosses its hands in the air and coughs up a resounding “Oops.”
Pretty much a tale as old as government contracts, no? And that's exactly what has unraveled at Cleveland Public Power. A recent city auditor's investigation shows that a business contracted with CPP was allowed to over-bill the city to close to a million dollars. City council never approved the increased billings, and CPP failed to monitor the company's activities.
According to the Plain Dealer, Terry the Plumber — a business run by Terrence J. Kordiac — originally inked a two-year contract with CPP to replace the piping in the agency's buildings and other repairs. The price-tag on the work was $160,000. Because the contract was for more than $50,000, Cleveland City Council signed off on the work.
But according to the auditor, the billings would eventually top out at around $1 million without council approval.
Also, according to WKYC, it turns out Kordiac was paying out all the workers, “from laborers to truck drivers to backhoe operators,” at the highest possible rate allowed under the agreement with the city.
Terry the Plumber himself says he did nothing wrong, telling WKYC that CPP's accounting system just couldn't keep up with the work load. “The commissioner knew exactly what was going on. In fact, they okayed all of my bills,” he told the station's Tom Meyer.
CPP has not offered an explanation for why the figures were so jacked up in the end, or who was responsible. Although the auditor recommended a criminal investigation, police found nothing worthy of charges. What's probably worse is that nobody has been fired. One unnamed employee has been reassigned, and other punishment may be in the offing pending further review.
But, let's get down to the real talk on this — if unscrupulously kicking around that amount of money isn't a reason for someone's head to roll, or at least is a recognized occasion for a full explanation to taxpayers, how is anyone supposed to take CPP's management seriously?