November 27, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain official accused of threat

LORAIN — An attorney says the city’s development director threatened and tried to bribe a Lorain Port Authority official so he’d give into city wishes.
Attorney J. Anthony Rich has threatened legal action against Community Development Department Director Sandy Prudoff and the city if Prudoff does not step down from his position.
The allegations stem from an argument that took place between Port Authority Chairman Ben Fligner and Prudoff during an April 27 meeting in which Prudoff said the city was unwilling to pay a $10,000 fee to the Port Authority for acting as construction manager during the remodeling of the city jail.
Prudoff allegedly told Fligner that because of the dispute, he will receive “no assistance from (Community Development) publicly or privately,” according to a letter dated June 27 that Rich wrote and sent to Prudoff.
Fligner took that to mean both that Community Development will not help the Port Authority with any projects and that it will not help Fligner obtain public loans and tax breaks for a $10,000 expansion of his grocery store, Fligner’s Supermarket on Broadway, Rich said.
Rich said the bribery allegation comes from Prudoff’s insinuation that Port Authority has to lend its services for free or the city will not do business with Fligner.
“In the event that you do not agree to be removed as director of the Community Development Department, against you as well as the city of Lorain if they were to adopt or defend your position in the matter,” Rich wrote.
Safety Service Director Mike Kobylka said he will hold a pre-disciplinary hearing for Prudoff this week to investigate the matter.
Rich said Monday that the letter was not meant to imply that the Port Authority would sue the city if Prudoff doesn’t step down.
Rather, he said, he wants the city to come up with a solution to remedy the tension between Fligner and Prudoff.
 “Our ears are open,” Rich said. “Our position is that Ben can’t act as chairman in the current position, and because he didn’t do anything wrong, it would be wrong for him to step down as chairman.”
Although Fligner has not had to vote on anything dealing with Community Development since that meeting, he feels he must abstain from any future votes involving the department, which would hinder his ability to perform his duties, Rich said.
“The alleged statements that were made in effect neutralized Ben Fligner’s ability to act as chairman,” Rich said.
Rich is representing the Port Authority because its regular legal counsel was a witness at the meeting. Rich said he is not representing Fligner, who plans on hiring his own attorney to pursue his own legal action against Prudoff and the city.
Neither Fligner nor Prudoff returned several phone calls seeking comment Monday.
City officials had sought the Port Authority’s help on the jail project because they thought that by having it serve as a construction manager, it could lessen the cost because subcontractors would not have had to purchase performance bonds.
The cost of a performance bond generally is added to a bid, elevating the cost. They are issued by the state to make it easier for city officials to go after companies who perform sub-par work.
The plan was for the Port Authority to in turn farm out construction manager’s job to someone from Community Development for a nominal fee. But since trying to sell the proposal to the Port Authority, city officials have learned that a performance bond always is needed, regardless of who serves as construction manager.
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.