We read the article posted below, written by Chad Felton of the News-Herald, regarding the ‘Better Flip’ project. While we admire Chad’s writing style, this is more of a “puff piece” than hard core investigative reporting. We have previously offered our evidence to Chad, but we realize that he has to report to his bosses; it appears that the News-Herald has lost their zest for hard core journalism, do not like conflict, and investigative journalism is probably not in the budget.
We are providing our readers with our rebuttal to Mr. Rantala’s distorted characterization of the facts.
We have spent an enormous amount of time researching the details behind the “Better Flip” project. Through numerous public records requests, we have constructed a timeline of events that clearly shows either misfeasance or nonfeasance on the behalf of Mr. Rantala, the Port’s Executive Director, the entire Port’s Board of Directors, and Lake County Commissioners Ron Young and Jerry Cirino. Commissioner Hamercheck gets a pass, although he questioned our statement of facts about the lack of a budget for the “Better Flip’ project. He, at least, was concerned that Rantala displayed a lack of candor when he told Hamercheck personally that there was a budget for the project. We are being kind when we say “lack of candor”. Mr. Hamercheck did apologize for doubting our statement of facts that we documented for him in the Commissioners’ meeting.
Cirino has totally embraced this project and appears not to be concerned that the people’s money has been squandered on this project. Being almost 100% over the predetermined spending limit of $150,000 does not seem to concern Cirino. Young is “out to lunch” on this project, since we have asked him twice about his position on the project. At a public commissioners’ meeting he said he would have to check the numbers – presumably he is still checking the numbers. Note to Commissioner Young – it is not that hard, believe us….We have put him down on the “I do not care about the overspending” column until he returns from lunch.
Here are definitions that may be helpful to our readers: “Malfeasance — Intentional conduct that is wrongful or unlawful, especially by officials or public employees. Malfeasance is at a higher level of wrongdoing than nonfeasance (failure to act where there was a duty to act) or misfeasance (conduct that is lawful but inappropriate).
We are going to let the State of Ohio’s Attorney General and the State’s Auditor’s office determine if the Port’s Board of Directors, and Executive Director were negligent in their duties.
Here is our timeline of events: Timeline of Events for the Better Flip Project -Minutes & Records Requests 6-20-19
Please note specifically items #3, #11, and #13 that were obtained from the Board’s own meeting minutes.
— In entry #3, Rantala tells the Board that he thinks that he can sell the house for a profit. (They now have invested $299,000 in the renovation costs for a Willowick bungalow that will sell for substantially less!)
— In entry #11, Board President, Art Lindrose said that he and Board member Mr. Martin would collaborate on the project to put together a budget..i.e. what it would take to bring the house to the point of resale to a millennial, should the Board choose to take the project on. He noted that it is important that the Board understands everything up front before the LCOPEDA receives the home from the Lake County Land Bank. (LFC believes that this is the statement that seals the fate of the Board, since they never followed through on what they knew was the integral part of the project. With Lindrose and Martin being in the construction business, it is rather embarrassing for them that they did not do their due diligence as Board members.)
— In entry #13, Lindrose again said that he, Martin and Rantala would craft an estimate for the project. (Again, they knew of the importance of creating the budget, but for some reason chose to ignore what they knew was essential.)
We have received confirmation from Rantala and from the Lake County Prosecutor’s office that there never was a budget created. So the Executive Director and the entire Port Board of Directors totally disregarded what they knew was critical before they even started the project — determining the estimated project costs.
They threw caution to the wind, and the Board passed an initial resolution authorizing the expenditure of $150,000 (Per Ohio Revised Code section 4582.12 (A) (2) the maximum allowed before competitive bidding is required) Rantala displayed some real “chutzpah” in the News-Herald article when he pretends everything is legitimate and his bases are covered because the Board of Directors approved the original $150,000, and then subsequent resolutions for an additional $60,000 and $89,000 in expenditures. The sheer audacity of his stance is really quite revealing to us about Rantala.
At the last Port Board of Directors’ meeting on Wednesday, June 26th, we delivered this letter with exhibits to the Board’s attorney, Rantala and all of the Board members.
Letter to Port Board with Exhibits 6-26-19
In the article, Rantala said that some costs got out of control because of “bad foundation work”. We are going to address that in our next post. We suggest Rantala and the Board “gird their loins” as we pull back the curtain and expose more for the taxpayers to see. We will let the court of public opinion decide if the entire Port Board, Rantala, Young, and Cirino have acted in the best interests of the Lake County taxpayers.
If any of our readers want to tell Commissioners Young and Cirino what you think of their oversight of the Lake County Port Authority on the Better Flip project, here is their contact information from the Lake County website:
Commissioner Ron Young: Please do not hesitate to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-350-5812.
Commissioner Jerry Cirino: Please do not hesitate to contact me at: email@example.com or 440-350-2882
You may want to contact Mark Rantala. He should be able to take your calls, since it does not appear that he spends any time cleaning his office. On second thought, he may not be able to find the phone on his desk.
Lake County Port Executive Director Mark “I don’t need a clean office to operate” Rantala – 440.357.2290