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Published: Sunday, 12/11/2005

Police chief mayor's call

Whatever legal machinations may ensue, it's increasingly likely that Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre will lose his job shortly after Carty Finkbeiner reassumes the mayor's office on Jan. 3.

And, the civil service provisions of the city charter notwithstanding, perhaps that's the way it should be.

As the original advocate in this community 13 years ago for a return to the strong-mayor form of city government, we believe that the mayor - any mayor, not just Carty - should be free to choose the officials he wants to help him run the city, because accountability and responsibility are ultimately his.

The attorney for Chief Navarre may be right when he says the police chief technically does not serve at the pleasure of the mayor. But Mr. Finkbeiner already has announced his choice of successor, Capt. Jack Smith, and the leadership situation in the police department could get confused and even nasty should Chief Navarre wage a prolonged fight to retain the job.

Perhaps the chief is using the legal claim to angle for a better severance package, which the city might be obliged to provide should the case ultimately be decided in the chief's favor. However, it's not likely in his heart of hearts that he really wants to work for a mayor who doesn't want him.

The irony, of course, is that Mr. Finkbeiner appointed Chief Navarre in 1998 and considered him, along with Fire Chief Michael Bell, among his best appointments. Why the mayor-elect now wants to get rid of his appointee is not entirely clear, but we do believe Mr. Finkbeiner should provide the public a detailed explanation.

His brief comment that he was dissatisfied with the way the chief handled the Oct. 15 riot and that the chief had not kept on top of gang developments in the city may be true. For that matter, the chief himself has acknowledged that mistakes were made on that ugly Saturday seven weeks ago. But he has been a Toledo police officer for a long time and deserves to fully understand how and why he lost the mayor-elect's confidence.

In any case, a mayor with executive power cannot do the job properly if he does not have control over the personnel he entrusts to help him run the city.

Under the strong-mayor form of government, the buck stops with the mayor, and no one else.

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