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Published: Friday, 10/26/2001

What are they hiding?

After startling revelations in the personal credit histories of mayoral candidates Ray Kest and Jack Ford, The Blade decided to ask for the same information from this year's candidates for City Council.

So far, all incumbent council members have refused. The only candidate to authorize release of credit information is Carol Buno, a TARTA driver who is running as a Democrat for one of the six at-large seats.

The question now becomes: What do the others have to hide? We can only guess at the answer, but it probably has to do with another crucial question, now bedeviling Mr. Kest: If candidates for public office can't manage their personal finances, how can they be responsible stewards of public money?

With more than $70,000 of debt on eight credit cards in his name, Mr. Kest is struggling to provide a level of reassurance to the public that his qualifications as Lucas County treasurer and as a certified public accountant no longer guarantee.

We believe credit information is something the public deserves to know and thus is a valid inquiry for council candidates as well as those who would be mayor.

Council holds the purse strings of city government. Its members must vote on any city expenditure over $10,000. Coming before council before the end of the year are votes that will commit the city to an estimated $25 million in consulting fees for a $400 million sewage treatment project to satisfy a consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

It appears that the 12 incumbents banded together to refuse release of their credit reports, even though several insist they have good credit and wouldn't be embarrassed. Regrettably, incumbent Bob McCloskey, who once had aspirations to be mayor, gave the crudest response to our request. And we are particularly disappointed that challenger George Sarantou, whom we already have endorsed, is among the holdouts.

Serving on City Council should be more than just a function of getting elected and drawing a paycheck. A good public servant is an open book. Council members who can't stay out of debt could be prone to corrupt behavior, and how they handle money could well be a reflection of how they will serve their fellow Toledoans. The public cannot expect anything less than full disclosure.

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