El­lis pulls Craig critic from pur­chas­ing pol­icy com­mit­tee

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - MERIS LUTZ mlutz@cov­news.com

County Chair­man Keith El­lis has re­scinded his in­vi­ta­tion to lo­cal cit­i­zen Ann Neuhierl to serve on the com­mit­tee seek­ing to re­form the pur­chas­ing pol­icy, telling her that “the orig­i­nal can­di­date is now avail­able.”

“I will be of­fer­ing the po­si­tion to that in­di­vid­ual,” El­lis wrote in an e-mail, which Neuhierl pro­vided to The News Fri­day.

Neuhierl, who sells fur­ni­ture to state and fed­eral agen­cies and is in­ti­mately familiar

with their pur­chas­ing poli­cies, has al­ready at­tended both com­mit­tee meet­ings held thus far and was out­spo­ken about the need to re­work the county pol­icy in the spirit of other gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

Specif­i­cally, she sug­gested low­er­ing the value limit of gifts to county em­ploy­ees from $50 to $25. She also pointed out that the state does not al­low con­tracts to be awarded to ven­dors who owe taxes, a ref­er­ence to County At­tor­ney Tommy Craig, who owes mil­lions in fed­eral taxes and penal­ties.

When Com­mis­sioner Le­vie Mad­dox ex­pressed con­cern that the com­mit­tee was sin­gling out Craig, Neuhierl pointed out that Craig was billing the county for more than other ven­dors. Ac­cord­ing to a re­port dis­trib­uted at that same meet­ing, Craig ap­pears on track to bill the county $1.2 mil­lion this fis­cal year, putting the county sig­nif­i­cantly over bud­get on legal fees.

“It seems to me this is an ethics is­sue,” said Neuhierl at the time, re­fer­ring to a mea­sure re­quir­ing all ven­dors to have paid their taxes. “I don’t un­der­stand what the ob­jec­tion might be to not fol­low that.”

On Fri­day, she clar­i­fied that “I’m vo­cal about the process by which he [Craig] is hired as much as his per­for­mance.”

She con­firmed that El­lis had had an­other can­di­date in mind when he ini­tially ap­proached her, but called his de­ci­sion to re­scind her in­vi­ta­tion now, af­ter two meet­ings, “in­ter­est­ing.”

“I’m not sure what all of this is about,” she said, adding that con­ver­sa­tions with El­lis had led her to be­lieve he pre­ferred the sta­tus quo, which she does not sup­port.

Over the past sev­eral weeks, the Board has formed sev­eral cit­i­zen com­mit­tees to deal with press­ing is­sues, in­clud­ing the land­fill, form of gov­ern­ment and pur­chas­ing pol­icy.

“The only rea­son you would want to do that… is that you want to get an­swers from some­where else than where you’ve been get­ting them, i.e. Tommy Craig,” she said. “He’s given the board all their an­swers and now they are form­ing com­mit­tees and hop­ing to get the same an­swers from the com­mu­nity that they’ve been get­ting from Tommy Craig, which is ‘do what­ever you want to do,’ and that’s con­cern­ing.”

El­lis de­nied that he had re­moved Neuhierl over her com­ments on Craig, point­ing out that he had not at­tended ei­ther pol­icy com­mit­tee meet­ing.

“This has ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with that,” he said. “When some­one is crit­i­cal of the Board of Com­mis­sion­ers and they have been ap­pointed to a com­mit­tee by a board mem­ber, they should be re­spect­ful to the board mem­ber and not make crit­i­cal state­ments on­line or in public.”

It was not clear whether he was re­fer­ring to Neuhierl’s com­ments while she was on the com­mit­tee or since her re­moval. When asked if he re­moved Neuhierl be­cause she made crit­i­cal com­ments, El­lis said, “[I re­moved her] to find some­one who will be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of my thoughts.”

Neuhierl said she would con­tinue to at­tend the meet­ings as a cit­i­zen. The next is sched­uled for Fri­day, April 24.

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