Friday, May 25, 2018
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Inquiry faults rest-stop vending pact

COLUMBUS - Ben Green, an administrator at the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, tried to "manipulate" which company received a vending contract at highway rest stops, according to a state investigation released yesterday.

Mr. Green also bought a refrigerated beer tap at a much lower price through the firm he tried to help, Inspector General Tom Charles said.

Mr. Charles has forwarded the investigation to the Columbus city attorney for possible misdemeanor charges and to the Franklin County prosecutor, who also is reviewing an investigation of the commission.

On May 24, 2004, the RSC, which oversees vocational training for the disabled, asked firms for proposals to provide snack vending services at 29 highway rest areas. Three companies competed, including Sanese Services, which has offices in Columbus and North Canton.

Mr. Green, an assistant RSC director, told a panel of RSC and state Department of Transportation employees assigned to score the proposals that he had persuaded Sanese to match a bid by AVI FoodSystems, based in Warren, Ohio.

Two RSC employees, including one who took notes, told the inspector general's office that during a telephone conference call, Mr. Green said: "It's not like two state auditors will be standing in the room when we all meet. We are going to decide which company we want [and] then back into the scoring. We will use blank scoring sheets and everyone will fill in scores to arrive at what we need. We will alter the results. Some people may think that this is illegal, but I don't."

Mr. Green told investigators: "Well, then you know I'll take their word for it, but I did not try to supersede the official process by saying we were supposed to do something that was not appropriate."

Six weeks before the RSC asked vendors for proposals, Mr. Green bought a refrigerated beer tap at wholesale price through Sanese, Mr. Charles said.

A Missouri company sold the beer tap to Sanese at a wholesale price of $964.80, Mr. Green wrote a check for that amount to buy it, and the listed retail price was $2,209, Mr. Charles said.

Mr. Green saved $1,244.20 and paid no state sales tax on the transaction, the inspector general's office found.

Based on an internal investigation, Mr. Green was placed on administrative leave from his $82,804-a-year job. He resigned early this month, said Larry McCorkle, an RSC spokesman.

The inspector general also found that in July, 2002, Douglas Huntt, then RSC chairman, improperly solicited the Statewide Independent Living Council for a $10,000 donation to help Enable America, a Florida-based advocacy group and political action committee for the disabled, hold a town hall meeting in Columbus.

At the time, Mr. Huntt was chief executive officer of Enable America and in one year, he received $99,044 for his fund-raising efforts, Mr. Charles said.

The Statewide Independent Living Council members voted to approve a $5,000 donation to Enable America.

Mr. Huntt resigned as RSC chairman shortly before the inspector general's office released an investigation in December alleging that he charged both the RSC and Ohio State University for mileage and travel reimbursements for the same days. Mr. Huntt was director of Assistive Technology of Ohio.

Contact James Drew at:

or 614-221-0496.

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