2 NEWS Investigates seeks accountability in contract with former city manager

VANDALIA, Ohio (WDTN)-  Former city manager Rob Anderson is being paid as a consultant, but there’s no record of the work he’s supposedly doing for Vandalia.  His contract appears to amount to nothing more than a way to avoid a lawsuit.

In August of last year Rob Anderson, then city manager of Vandalia, was cited for drunk driving. In November Anderson resigned and signed a separation agreement with the city.  It guaranteed Anderson six months pay. That’s money that could supply Vandalia police with two more vehicles and change leftover.

So, what did taxpayers get out of the deal that cost them $55,250?

City law director, Jerry McDonald, told 2 NEWS Investigates Vandalia was legally obligated to pay Anderson through January anyway.  The city chose to keep him on as a consultant.

Pam Elliot: Where is it documented just how much consulting he did?

Jerry McDonald: I don’t know that it is documented. It is on an as needed basis.

Vandalia Communication Manager Rich Hopkins put it this way. “We’ve got seven city council members, we have department directors, six or seven of those and any one of those people could have picked up the phone and called him about any number of issues,” said Hopkins.

But, no one seems to know how often that happened.  Mayor Arlene Setzer would not go on camera, but did tell me she doesn’t even know how to get a hold of Anderson.

Pam Elliot: Where is the accountability, Mr. McDonald, in terms of how the city is spending its money on a consultant if there is no documentation of how many work hours were put in?

Jerry McDonald: Well he wasn’t being paid per se for your advice on this matter or that matter. What that payment was for was to ensure the smooth transition which we received.

But 2 NEWS Investigates found out that Anderson violated a city zoning ordinance while Vandalia was still paying him. He had to be summoned to court so he’d remove a large black dumpster outside his house.

After seeing the dumpster on March 27, 2 NEWS Investigates went up to the door to find out why he hadn’t removed it, but no one answered.

The day Anderson was to appear in court, April 9, he didn’t show up.  We were told the case had been dismissed because the dumpster had been removed.  All he had left to do was pay $81 in court costs.  Today the court said he has yet to pay.

Victor Stanchina is a neighbor.

Pam Elliot: Would it surprise you to learn that the former city manager had left that dumpster out for months?
Victor Stanchina: Is that right? I didn’t know that. Oh my.
Elliot: And he’s still being paid by the city.
Stanchina: Wow

2 News Investigates called cities with about the same population as Vandalia, according to 2010 U.S. Census data. Those cities range in size from 11,793 to 17,409 residents. Vandalia’s population is 15,426.

All six said they do use consultants from time to time.

Springboro, West Carrollton, and Urbana provided copies of current contracts with consultants. They meet needs that include construction, engineering, zoning codes, and economic development projects. Some of the projects only require hiring on an hourly basis. Other contracts last two years.

We also found none of these current consulting firms or individuals involves former city employees.

Wright State professor, Dr. Myron Levine, is an expert on Urban Affairs. He says the trend is increased use of consultants, even former city leaders because it can save cities money.

“Cities also are reacting to the most important concern which is to build jobs and not lose jobs, and if they do anything foolish that impedes the completion of an important economic development project, they are certainly going to hear from their taxpayers on that,” Dr. Levine explained.

Elliot: Did his availability save a development or keep a business in town or do something that the taxpayers could see as tangible?
McDonald: I couldn’t answer that. I don’t even remember what I had for lunch.

During this investigation, 2 NEWS Investigates found out the City of Vandalia also hired a University of Dayton professor to help with transition.  His contract clearly states what is expected for a payment of $12,000.  There appeared no such accountability when it came to Anderson’s deal.

2 NEWS Investigates used every phone number and address we could find for Anderson to try to give him the opportunity to explain what he’s been doing for the last six months and never heard from him.

Again, the City of Vandalia is paying Anderson through April 30.

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