Article By MARK TATGE, PLAIN DEALER BUREAU
Tuesday, April 13, 1999
"COLUMBUS - A top state official who advocated building a $271 million communications network said yesterday that she had long had ethics concerns about hiring a Republican fund-raiser to develop tower sites for the project.
Department of Administrative Services Director Sandra Drabik said yesterday that she was concerned about the potential conflict of interest posed by hiring Republican fund-raiser Daniel Slane. She said she expressed those misgivings to ethics officials before the contract was awarded.
"I'd had discussions for the entire year with the (Ohio) Ethics Commission about potential conflicts," Drabik said yesterday.
Drabik and other department officials said yesterday that the agency was re-evaluating whether to hire Slane amid lingering concerns about whether his involvement in construction of the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System [MARCS] could violate state ethics laws. The controversy has caused the agency to slash how much it will pay in rent for tower sites and to consider developing more locations on its own. ...
Key to the radio system is the location of 201 towers that would carry communications signals across the state.
The Department of Administrative Service's reversal comes after concerns raised in January by Gov. Bob Taft about the radio system's ballooning cost - about $100 million over earlier estimates - and the Ethics Commission's refusal to give an opinion about whether Slane's involvement posed a conflict of interest. ...
"The governor's office didn't get involved in discussions" about contractors, said Mike Dawson, a spokesman for Voinovich, who is now a U.S. senator. "That was DAS's job."
The project as originally presented by Drabik to the State Controlling Board called for Slane to play a major role by acquiring and developing 122 of the 201 tower sites. In exchange, the state planned to lease the towers from Slane for 20 years, paying him up to $162 million over that period.
However, critics of the radio system, including losing bidder Ericsson Inc., howled when they learned of the intended size of the lease payments. Slane, a Columbus developer, has raised money for Voinovich's gubernatorial campaign and for the Republican Governors Association. He also was appointed to several state boards by Voinovich.
Four days before the radio project was to go to the Controlling Board for approval, Drabik sought an opinion from the Ethics Commission. The commission didn't reply until after the board had named TRW-Motorola as the contractor. The commission then said it could not render advice on a contract already awarded, leaving the question unresolved.
Drabik said yesterday that her department's questions about whether Slane could legally be a contractor while serving on several state boards have yet to be resolved. A final decision on Slane's participation in the project isn't expected until May, she said. ...
Drabik also said that, on the advice of a consultant - Buford Goff & Associates - the department planned to slash how much it pays contractors in rent for tower sites to $2.8 million annually from $8.1 million, saving some $106 million over 20 years."
Article By MARK TATGE, PLAIN DEALER BUREAU
Friday, April 16, 1999
"COLUMBUS - ... Slane was well known in Republican Party circles as a fund-raiser for former Gov. George V. Voinovich and the Republican Governors Association. He also was appointed to several state boards by Voinovich.
Slane said that by today he will have resigned from all those positions except the Ohio State University Board of Trustees.
But Drabik said she wasn't sure the resignations would make a difference. "I am afraid we would have to look at all the facts,' she said.
Slane said he didn't understand why Drabik, who steps down as the DAS director today, made an issue of his service on the boards. Slane said he fully disclosed his board positions to Drabik back in 1995 while the department was reviewing the project.
Drabik acknowledged that she was aware of Slane's board positions. "His disclosing it, that doesn't answer for me whether it is a conflict." she said. "I haven't been able to resolve that because the Ethics Commission has declined to render an opinion."
Records showed that four days before Drabik presented the MARCS contract to the Controlling Board, she asked the Ohio Ethics Commission to issue an opinion regarding Slane. The commission, which didn't reply until after the board had named Lyndhurst-based TRW Inc. and Motorola of Chicago as the winning bidder, said it could not render advice on a contract already awarded. ..."