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A conflict of interest?

Ironton mayor Bob Cleary has declined to take a public position on the alignment for a new bridge to replace the existing, aging span over the Ohio River.

Monday, March 12, 2001

Ironton mayor Bob Cleary has declined to take a public position on the alignment for a new bridge to replace the existing, aging span over the Ohio River.

The mayor owns property at 1014 S. 2nd St. that would be in the path of one proposed alignment. Since the mayor would benefit personally if the Ohio Department of Transportation picks that alignment, he felt it would be inappropriate for him to support any alignment.

He left the decision on which alignment to support to the city council and other interested groups including the Ironton Business Association. Council and the IBA favor keeping the bridge in the downtown area of Ironton and Russell. In fact, there is no support for relocating the bridge as far east as the mayor’s property.

Staying out of the decision-making process was a good move on Mayor Cleary’s part. It removed the possibility of a conflict of interest. Unfortunately, the mayor has been undercutting council and the IBA by lobbying behind the scenes for the bridge to take a portion of his property.

And now his apparent duplicity has angered several downtown business owners. As one owner put it, "Bob is selling out the city of Ironton for $60,000. . . . I hate to say it, but Bob is the kind of guy who would do anything to make a buck."

We have learned from several sources that Cleary has been using his position as mayor and as chair of a regional transportation agency to advance the one bridge alignment that would put money into his pocket.

He should stop that lobbying immediately and distance himself from the decision on where the new bridge will be located. Or he should publicly take a position and live with any political consequences that taking a position might bring.

The alignment that he is supporting would have a negative economic impact on other businesses in the area. In the case of Bob Clyse Oldsmobile-Pontiac-GMC Truck, it would drive the business out of the city.

Taxpayers cannot allow that to happen because relocating Clyse outside Ironton would cost the city more than $60,000 in economic impact in just one year.

Mr. Mayor, tell the taxpayers of Ironton which alignment you support and stop your back-door efforts to have the bridge cut across you property.

You cannot afford the political consequences of supporting a bridge alignment that benefits only you.