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Published: Monday, 9/29/2003

A nasty departure

It was supposed to be Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board member Jerry Chabler's farewell valedictory, an opportunity to say his good-byes, tout some achievements, and express some frustrations to a board he'll soon be leaving.

Instead it turned into one more bitter exchange between Mr. Chabler and his detractors on the board. He was even motivated to say he may reconsider his decision to resign - though one wonders why he'd want to stay.

Several board members continue to resist positive change at an agency that needs it, and their disdain for Mr. Chabler is palpable. Even so, we would have expected that they would have been relatively quiet, respectful even, as their tormentor prepared to conclude four years of service to the community with a prepared speech.

The departure, one by one, of his board colleagues, as he tried to do so was insulting and demeaning. It must be acknowledged that Mr. Chabler's style sometimes leave something to be desired. He can be abrasive. But his contributions have been generally substantive, and substance should count for a lot more than style.

Not surprisingly, even regular port board business at Thursday's meeting put Mr. Chabler in a minority of one. The board voted, with Mr. Chabler dissenting, to help finance a $250 million commercial and residential complex in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake.

While the port authority insists its risk is minimal and that serving as financial middleman will actually generate some revenue, many Lucas County taxpayers are entitled to wonder why the agency would finance a development so far from home instead of here. Does building a mall in Westlake work for the betterment of Lucas County?

In a sense the deal is an additional reflection of a group that seems unable to grasp that it is a public board, not a corporate board.

Parting, they say, is such sweet sorrow. There was nothing sweet about Thursday's contentious board meeting. It was, however, a sorrowful display of pettiness and vindictiveness.

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