City investigating $140,000 in 'illegal' payments to former city manager

'Illegal' payments to former city manager (VIDEO)
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati city auditors are working to figure out who authorized a raise for former city manager Milton Dohoney on Dohoney's first day on the job. The raise, city records show, was approved without a vote of council.

Last week, council members voted to open an investigation into who inside the city's Human Resources department keyed in a $20,000 raise for Dohoney on August 13, 2006—the same day council voted to hire Dohoney at a salary of $184,291.19.

That initial $20,000 raise netted Dohoney $140,000 in additional pay over his seven years as city manager.

Records submitted to the city's clerk's office by Cincinnati City Councilman Chris Smitherman show an entry in the Cincinnati Human Resources Information System labeled "System Pay Correction," which activated a $20,000 pay raise for

Council uncovered the "unauthorized" raise after members opened up debate over whether current city manager Harry Black should be given a raise after his first year on the job.


"I was here and I did not know about it, at all," Mayor John Cranley told council members during an Oct. 14 meeting. "I was complete news to me," Cranley said after Smitherman's motion to investigate the raise was read into the record.

Cranley served on council from 2000 through 2009.

Cranley was not mayor in August 2006 when council voted to hire Dohoney. Cranley admitted he never caught the initial raise and other cost of living raises given to Dohoney, despite approving budgets that contained those raises.

Cranley was a council member and voted to hire Dohoney at the $184,291.19 salary. The deal also paid Dohoney $550 a month for a car allowance, four weeks of taxpayer-paid vacation, six weeks of sick leave, up to $7,500 to move Dohoney to Cincinnati and included Dohoney into the city's retirement program.

During the Oct. 14 meeting, Cranley told council he had "information he didn't know about and have a duty to share." That information dealt with a "cost of living" raise activated under Dohoney's rein. Cranley described those raises as something that was slipped into the budget without anyone seeing them.

"It was complete news to me, as is the news that I shared earlier that this cost of living increase had been baked into the budget for the last 10 years. I was unaware of that," Cranley told council.


"Some of my colleagues, for whatever reason, don't want to talk about," said Councilman Chris Smitherman during the Oct. 14 meeting where he introduced his motion, asking the city to audit and investigate the Dohoney raise.

Smitherman was successful in pushing his motion through council. In the Oct. 28 meeting, council voted 8 to 1 to send the matter to the city's audit committee to open an investigation. The only member to vote against the move was Wendell Young.

"No one down at city hall, yet, can figure out where the $20,000 raise came from on his first day of work in 2006," Smitherman told FOX19. "Someone had to have gone into the HR system and made that alteration—that is a fact. What we don't know is who did it and on whose direction," Smitherman said.

Smitherman wants the city to open a criminal investigation into the raise, looking for exactly who made the change in the city's CHRIS system and why Dohoney never reported the extra income to council.

"I'm very confident that Mr. Dohoney knew about it and he certainly did not bring it to the city solicitor's attention, didn't bring it to HR's attention, did not bring it to the mayor or council's attention. He just accepted that increase,"
Smitherman said.


"It's a witch hunt and I'll have no part of it," Wendell Young told FOX19 when asked why he decided to vote against investigating the raise and who authorized it. Young said he wasn't concerned with investigating anything related to
the Dohoney raise.

"All that happened before I got here," Young said, "I have no interest in finding out or learning what happened before I got here with regard to Mr. Dohoney. I just want no part of that."

Young would not answer questions regarding the evidence Smitherman said he gathered from the city's Human Resources department, proving Dohoney's salary was increased by $20,000 the day council voted to hire him.

"There is no resolution available to the taxpayer for what happened back then," Young argued.

Smitherman disagrees, telling FOX19, the possibility of a criminal investigation and using the court system to get the $140,000 back.


Milton Dohoney left Cincinnati in 2013 and is now the city manager of Phoenix, Arizona. We contacted Dohoney by email and received a response 25 minutes later. We followed up that conversation with a phone call to Dohoney's office.

"There's virtually no way I could get a raise," Dohoney told FOX19, citing the provision in the city's laws that requires a council vote to approve a raise for the city manager.

"My recollection is that I didn't get a raise because we were struggling at the time," Dohoney said, "I don't know how that's even possible."

Dohoney claims he only received one raise, which was passed in August 2012 following a job evaluation performed by council. The city now claims it cannot find Dohoney's evaluation in his personnel file.

The Human Resources records contained in the council files shows Dohoney actually received six raises in his seven years with the city, yet council records only show two votes by council, authorizing a raise. The HR system shows three
separate step increases given to Dohoney in 2006, 2009 and 2010—those raises were written into the budget, essentially an approval by council.

Dohoney said those raises written into the budget were "fully transparent" and something council members knew when they passed the budget. Cranley, though, said he never knew about the raises "baked into the budget" during the Oct. 14
council meeting.

Dohoney told FOX19, he didn't notice the initial $20,000 raise when he received his paychecks or at any other time during his tenure. Those paychecks were paid to Dohoney every two weeks.

As for how the first day on the job raise happened, Dohoney said he didn't have a clue as to how that happened, "I've never heard of that, I never was in conversation where it was discussed."

Dohoney said he welcomed an investigation into the raise, "That's certainly fine. I've worked 30-plus years, never been accused of any criminal act, unethical behavior. Whatever process it takes for them to have clarity, I'm all for
it," Dohoney said.

Dohoney said he hasn't been contacted by any city official about the matter and didn't know it was a topic of council's discussions until we contacted him Monday morning.

Councilman Chris Smitherman told FOX19 he wants the "illegal and unauthorized" payments made to Dohoney paid back to the city, "If the investigation shows that there is no ordinance—this was not authorized—I believe we should send an
investigation team out to where Mr. Dohoney currently lives and we should question him and even bring him back to Cincinnati if any laws were broken."

Smitherman said the city will use the civil court process if that's what it takes.

Dohoney told FOX19 he'd cooperate with whatever the city needed from him.

Cincinnati City Council's vote on Oct. 28 sent the matter to the city's Rules and Audit Committee for further action. As of this posting, the matter is not included on the Nov. 3 committee agenda.

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