November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Contractor accused of corruption, allegedly tied to convicted Lorain official

LORAIN — Contractor Don Buchs is being accused of being paid for phantom demolition and cleanup work tied to disgraced former Community Development Director Sandy Prudhoff.

Law Director Pat Riley told City Council members at their Monday meeting that Prudhoff approved a no-bid contract and payments to Buchs for a 2005 demolition and cleanup of a property known as the Eastern Stoveworks at Long Avenue and West 13th Street. Prudoff, who retired in 2009, in August pleaded guilty in a federal corruption probe to being paid for consulting work he didn’t do.

Documents Riley provided to Council members and The Chronicle-Telegram said Buchs’ company, Quarry Road Properties Inc., had let its corporate charter allowing it to work in Ohio expire in 1999.

“Nonetheless, Mr. Buchs found it appropriate to advance that company as one of the parties in the contract,” Riley said.

Riley added that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on June 21 cited Buchs for open dumping, operating an unlicensed transfer facility and unlawful disposition of solid waste at Buchs’ Oak Point Road property.

The documents said police have witnessed dumping at the property. Riley said Ohio EPA officials told him Monday that Buchs has not provided a cleanup plan for the Oak Point property and that photos taken by city workers Monday morning show Buchs was illegally operating the dumping facility at the property.

City and federal officials are embroiled in a related dispute over Buchs. A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General investigation found the city awarded contracts worth $164,675 to companies run by Buchs between April 2005 and March 2008 without going out for competitive bids.

Riley said Buchs backed out of a Nov. 1 meeting with Riley and police due to the advice of Buchs’ attorney, Mike Duff.

“As a result of that, we have not been able to get his side of the story on several matters including these three notices of violations,” he said. “I don’t understand why he won’t come forward.”

Duff said he canceled the meeting because “sufficient documents” hadn’t been provided by Riley or police.

“I’m not going to meet with the law director in the dark,” Duff said by phone after the Council meeting. “I’m not going to get into a newspaper battle with the police and the prosecutor. I’ll just say that they’re mistaken.”

Prior to Riley’s comments, Council members passed over Buchs to demolish the former Ghoulardi’s Bar & Grill at 770 Broadway despite him bidding $44,000 compared with the winning bid of $57,300 by Cleveland-based B&B Wrecking Inc. Riley said the rejection was because another Buch’s company, All American Demolition Co., lacks a charter. The documents said the charter expired in 2007.

Riley noted Ohio law requires municipal contracts to be awarded to “the lowest and best bidder” not the lowest bidder. Councilwoman Anne Molnar, D-at large, defended Buchs, saying he had done “a whole lot for this city.”

However Councilman Eddie Edwards, D-6th, said Buchs backed out of a promise to renovate Ghoulardi’s, which closed in 2008 despite city officials providing up to $70,000 in federal loans to the owner.

“You don’t go to the prom with the same person twice if they end up leaving with someone else,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.