Thursday, Commissioner Driehaus couldn't raise a "2nd" on her motion to confirm the appointment of Tony DiPuccio to the Hamilton County Solid Waste Policy Committee. The motion went down without even a vote despite the county prosecutor's office claiming there is no conflict of interest.
The board had received significant evidence that indicates that Tony DiPuccio has had a long-standing, undisclosed relationship with Rumpke while serving on the Solid Waste Policy Committee. Rumpke has significant work before the committee. DiPuccio is seeking another term on that committee. Residents, advocates, and nonprofits weren't having it. Neither was a majority on the Board of Commissioners.
DiPuccio co-wrote an article giving accolades to Rumpke for streamling their recycling efforts back in 2010. However, the million dollar question is, was DiPuccio paid for that work? Only a deposition will get to the bottom of it because the county prosecutor is not releasing public records on the matter. A deposition and discovery will require an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General, the FBI's rackteering arm or the Ohio Ethics Commission. Rumpke denies that he is even "employed" by them, despite DiPuccio admiting in a meeting earlier this month that he does work for Rumpke on "compliance" issues.
Semantics isn't a good idea when the answer could divulge a possible criminal conspiracy.
When the item was brought up for discussion at a meeting of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioner June 30th, Driehaus focused on a "balance of views" and DiPuccio's "historical" knowledge of the subject matter. While actually identifying DiPuccio's conflict of interest in her own comments, she went on to claim,
"We heard from our attorneys that there is no conflict of interest. Remember, Mr. DiPoccio has been serving for quite a few years on this committee. But we did revisit the issue and asked once again if there was a conflict of interest, and the answer was 'No'. "
When Driehaus made these comments for the second time to her collegeues, she didn't realize that the other 2 commissioners had received copies of video clips which show the Assistant County Prosecutor repeatedly stating on the video clip that, "Yes," DiPuccio did, in fact, have a conflict of interest and then informing DiPuccio on how to avoid criminally violating ethics laws during meetings.
Driehaus continued to plead for diversity of opinions and to reiterate a known falsehood to her fellow commissioners and the public, "I'm comfortable with that legal opinion that we have been operating under for many years related to Mr. DiPuccio's service on this committee."
Commissioner Driehaus' reference to prior concerns for a possible conflict of interest and "operating" under that prior legal opinion for years raised issues as to how long the prosecutor's office, staff in the Department of Environmental Services, and what other members knew that DiPuccio was a consultant for Rumpke and yet did not disclose it to the rest of the committee members and public as required by law. He was permitted to sit on the Rules Subcommittee that was charged with the duty to propose rules that directly applied to his business associate and client, Rumpke.
Neither commissioner, Dumas or Reece, called Driehaus out on the contradictions. They maintained their own positions without exposing the misinformation being provided by Driehaus and the county assistant prosecutor who advises them.
Driehaus continued, "I'm comfortable with that legal opinion that we have been operating under for years."
The County Commissioners then did a deep dive into the issues before them. (See County Commissioners' meeting here at the point of discussion)
Dumas kept to her word and read each of the "many, many" comments sent to her and recognized their varying concerns with specificity. "I'm not convinced that his position that ... he would qualify as a waste generator representative." She said, "I've done some research, myself." She proceeded to state that, "I'm not convinced there is no conflict of interest" and "at least.. it's a perceived conflict of interest." Dumas thanked the County Prosecutor's Office for the legal opinion provided to the commissioners, despite that opinion contradicting what is on the video evidence. She then presented her own rationale, concluding that DiPuccio had "been involved in discussions" being on the committee and was exercising an "undue influence" on others.
Commissioner Alicia Reece sidestepped the controversial issues, politely, and focused on the board's desire to bring new people and new thoughts onto "these boards". She stated that the people who "advocated for the rules are the ones who have an issue with this appointment ... I'm inclined to open up the process and let someone else have the opportunity."
Driehaus was dumb-founded when the appointment was not being supported. "Wa-, wa-, wait" and proceeded to go against the concerns of residents and motioned to confirm the Rumpke consultant be appointed to the committee that oversees Rumpke.
Dumas concludes "No second, the item dies ... It fails."
Rumpke representative, Larry Riddle, was forced to resign in November under the threat of legal action for having a conflict of interest on this committee that the county prosecutor's office approved. Thursday, Commissioners Dumas and Reece refused to permit Tony DiPuccio another term on the Solid Waste Policy Committee despite the prosecutor's approval.
After 20 years, the Solid Waste Policy Committee is now seeking 2 new appointees to the committee.