Thursday, August 20, 2009

Commissioner Hanks: I've always been forthright

Forthright? Not a chance Todd. Forthrightness is missing from your character. -- Jim


From the Delaware Gazette:

Commissioner moonlights as consultant
Thursday, August 20, 2009
ANDREW TOBIAS Staff Writer

Since shortly after being appointed to his current position early this year, Delaware County commissioner Todd Hanks has held a second job making referrals for a civil engineering firm that is looking for work in the county.

As part of his private-sector job, Hanks in May invited employees from Civil and Environmental Consultants to meetings between county economic development and Village of Sunbury officials to discuss a re-development project, the Gazette has learned. Hanks insists that his moonlighting has not presented a conflict of interest.

Since January of this year, Hanks has worked part-time for the Pittsburgh-based CEC. According to its Web site, CEC specializes in environmental, civil and site development engineering, ecological water resources and solid waste management. It maintains a branch office within Delaware County in northern Columbus.

Last year, CEC offered Hanks a $50,000-a-year, 24-hour-a-week job as a regional sales representative, according to a Nov. 7, 2008 letter to Hanks from CEC. Hanks’ job, according to the letter, is to develop professional contacts and refer them to CEC; he receives a commission based on the amount of actual work those contacts buy from the firm’s contractors. The job description prohibits Hanks from making references while “on the county clock,” in accordance with ethics laws.

Federal Business Opportunities, a government Web site, lists Hanks as a CEC contractor with specialties in architecture and engineering, contracts and for-profit organizations.

Two closed-door meetings took place the week of May 18 between Hanks, county economic development officials, Village of Sunbury officials and CEC employees, according to public records.

Officials from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Development also attended the second meeting, held on May 20.

The meetings were held to discuss a local landowner’s plans to apply for a state grant to re-develop the site of the former Nestle Plant in Sunbury.

At the May 20 meeting, county economic development director Gus Comstock said he would see if the county could contribute revolving loan funds to help the landowner pay for the project, according to Sunbury Village Administrator Dave Martin. Comstock also indicated he would help guide village officials through the grant application process, Martin said.

Landowner Dan Cashman, reached by phone, said he has paid for the first part of the study and did not want or any county money. He did not say what company he hired.

On Wednesday, Hanks said he invited the CEC employees, who had experience with projects similar to the Nestle redevelopment, to the meeting to try and find them business opportunities.

“I was retained by CEC to make introductions,” he said. When asked if he was acting as a CEC employee or a county commissioner at the meetings, he said: “I’m never not a county commissioner.”

Martin said Wednesday that at the time of the May meetings, he did not know Hanks was employed by CEC, and didn’t know he would be bringing CEC employees with him. At the second meeting, Hanks signed in as a representative of Delaware County, and not a CEC employee, according to a sign-in sheet. Martin and Cashman both said they had no prior familiarity with CEC.

At the second meeting, Bill Acton, a senior project manager for CEC, wrote on a sign-in sheet that he was representing Cashman.

Hanks said he has been open with others about his private job, but he didn’t know if he identified himself to the Sunbury officials as a CEC employee. He also said he didn’t remember if revolving loan funds were discussed.

Elected officials are legally allowed to hold outside work, and the practice is not uncommon, Ohio Ethics Commission (OEC) Executive Director David Freel said. However, there are legal restrictions.

Public officials can hold an outside job only if they can recuse themselves if a conflict of interest arises between their public and private work, Freel said.

Ohio ethics law also specifically prohibits public officials from using their influence and relationships with other public officials to financially benefit themselves or the company they work for.

Hanks said he believes the May meetings did not pose a conflict of interest. He said he has abstained from voting on the three occasions that CEC had private work approved by the government entities (the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission, the county commission board) Hanks was a part of.

“I’ve always been forthright, and people know it,” he said.

Hanks took a $14,000 pay cut when the former county auditor was appointed to the county commission board earlier this year. He said he took on a part-time job to make up for the difference in pay, and noted that several previous Delaware County commissioners before him owned businesses on the side. Also, Commissioner Ken O’Brien worked as a teacher for Worthington Christian Schools before taking a leave in June, he said.

“I’m not ashamed of the fact that I have to have a part-time job to make ends meet,” he said.
Contacted Wednesday, Delaware County Prosecutor Dave Yost said he didn’t have enough information about the May meetings to form a legal conclusion.

On Feb. 16, Hanks wrote through a private attorney to the OEC to ask if his work with CEC was legally compatible with his duties as a county commissioner. In the letter, Hanks included “informal opinions” from the prosecutor’s office that said that the two positions were compatible, as long as Hanks was mindful of the restrictions imposed by ethics laws.

The ethics commission has not responded to Hanks’ inquiry yet, but a response is “in the pipeline,” Freel said.

Freel said he couldn’t comment specifically on Hanks, but noted ethics law applies the same to all elected and public officials. However, as an official gains more responsibility, there is a greater potential for conflict, he said.

CEC has no present contracts with the county, but did about $7,500 worth of work for the county’s environmental services division between Aug. 2007 and Aug. 2008, prior to Hanks’ employment with the firm, according to public records. CEC also regularly conducts business with developers within Delaware County, county engineer Chris Bauserman said.

atobias@delgazette.com

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hanks is disgusting.

Anonymous said...

The real question is... did Hanks recieve any commission since his employment with CEC and if so, what revenue / professional introductions resulted in the payment of commissions.

If he recieved commissions and it was a result of the Sunbury Nestle Plant, or any other potential connections he may have made a result of his Commissioners seat, then he should be impeached and officially charged by the Prosecutor. Then release him to the masses so we can have our way with him.

If not, then this is still "shady" and clearly Hanks is another dirty Republican.

Anonymous said...

Public Record Liberty Township said "there are numerous emails from others related to the CEC involvement with the noted project in Liberty Township" "also was unaware that Todd Hanks worked for the company."

Has anyone heard from Orange Twp?

Let the Sunshine!

Anonymous said...

Dirty indeed - he and half of the delaware republican central committee. Who's the Executive Director that coordinates this nonsense? Oh yes, Scott Galloway. Be sure and read your ballots twice this fall to check for Hanks' and Galloway's pals: Curt Sybert, John Cassidy,

Anonymous said...

Why are you all afraid to leave your names if you feel so strongly about this? Isn't anonymous like "hiding" something? You must be other dirty democrats.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:54 says (while...being "anonymous"):

"Why are you all afraid to leave your names if you feel so strongly about this? Isn't anonymous like "hiding" something? You must be other dirty democrats."

Leave it to a DelCo GOP clown to not lead by example.

Hey dopey--belonging to the DelCo "GOP" is not the same as being a Republican. The DelCo GOP is about as far away from Republican principles as one could possibly get. I can't remember the last time a Democrat officeholder embarrassed or swindled me. In the last five years we've had Peterson, Ward, Evans, Hanks and Galloway either or both.

Name me one local Democrat officeholder I've had to worry about?

My left thumb is more Republican than the jokers running the DelCo GOP freakshow, combined.

And that's what it is--a freakshow.

Anonymous said...

It's funny to watch those DelCo GOP clowns compromise themselves. Ward and Evans were booted. It won't be long before that disgraced, elfin troglodyte Jon Peterson gets turned out of office (long overdue). Hanks is on his way out, and with a little luck Gavel Boy will step in it soon enough, too. Galloway is the next DelCo bowling pin to get lined up for an office, and the next to get knocked over.

Anonymous said...

Hanks’ job is to develop professional contacts and refer them to CEC; he receives commission on the amount of work those contacts buy from CEC contractors. The job description prohibits Hanks from making references while “on the county clock,” in accordance with ethics laws.

“I was retained by CEC to make introductions,” Hanks said. When asked if he was acting as a CEC employee or a county commissioner at the Sunbury meetings, he said: “I’m never not a county commissioner.”

CEC specializes in environmental, civil and site development engineering, ecological water resources and solid waste management. Interesting, was Regional Sales Rep Hanks in for a cut on that $3.13 mm landfill study he and Thompson voted for, against legal advice ???

Hanks said he has been open about his private job, but he didn’t know if he identified himself to the Sunbury officials as a CEC employee. He also said he didn’t remember if revolving loan funds were discussed. Memory is a real problem for Hanks and Thompson. Seems others recall very clearly Mr. Hanks.

CEC also regularly conducts business with developers within Delaware County. Todd Hanks job making referrals for a civil engineering firm that is looking for work in the county, Thanks but NO Thanks Hanks.

Resign your seat as commissioner Mr. Hanks, you are a disgrace !!!