Court documents show Mayor Mark Mallory has filed a lawsuit to figure out whether it is legal for the Mayor to receive health insurance and a $500 monthly car allowance.
Jason Barron, Mallory's communications director, said the Mayor is trying to get to the bottom of a legal question. Barron said in February, the Mayor asked the City Solicitor whether his car allowance and his and council members' health insurance are legal.
The city charter doesn't contain that exact information. The charter does set the guidelines for the Mayor's salary. If the health insurance and car allowance are considered compensation that would boost the Mayor's salary over the set limit.
The anti-tax group COAST received wind of the issue, and last month, threatened to sue to stop the payments. The group claims the payments are an illegal addition to Mallory's $121,000 salary.
"He's getting a bodyguard to chauffeur him all around, yet he puts in for $500 for a car allowance for six years," said Tom Brinkman, a spokesperson for COAST. "We finally blow the whistle on him, and he sues to get the bonus that he really shouldn't have gotten in the first place."
On Monday, the Mayor filed a lawsuit of his own to figure out whether or not his health insurance and car allowance should be considered compensation or, essentially, perks.
The Mayor's lawyer, Paul De Marco, told FOX19 the only way to get that answer to that legal question is to name the city as the defendant in a lawsuit "because of its stake in the answer."
De Marco added that if the health insurance and car allowance are considered compensation, the Mayor would suffer "irreparable injury." That could mean that he'd have to pay back the money he's received. The Mayor was elected in 2006 and has received $500/month since that date so the Mayor could owe $30,000.
Barron said the car allowance dates back to the '80s when Mayor Luken decided to get rid of the Mayor's limousine and implement a car allowance to save money.
The Mayor can use the monthly car allowance for items such as gas and car insurance. Still, Republican council member Wayne Lippert said that city council members do not receive car allowances and the Mayor's comes out of the general fund.
Lippert said the lawsuit is an insult to Cincinnati residents. Lippert also said the city could end up paying for an outside lawyer to defend itself.
"I think the Mayor should just give up his car," said Lippert. "That would have solved the issue completely. Just give up the car. We're all asked to make sacrifices in this economic period, and if he would have just given up his car the issue would have just been over with."
Barron said the Mayor has not accepted his first quarterly payment of $1500 for 2011. He wants this charter issue resolved first.
As far as the cost to taxpayers, Barron said the Mayor is paying his own legal fees, and the city has lawyers on staff to handle issues just like this one so the costs are minimal.
There will be a hearing on the issue on Thursday morning at 10am. The Mayor is not expected to be in court.