Judge C. Allen McConnell speaks to the audience during a reception at the Toledo Club to mark the 30th anniversary of the Toledo Housing Court.
The Toledo Housing Court deals with people whose homes have fallen into disrepair — “hard-working people who have become overwhelmed,” the court’s website says. Some of these people will face criminal charges because their houses are no longer up to code.
Imagine telling such defendants that the court spent $7,696 to celebrate its own anniversary. Imagine what that money could have done for them.
Housing court magistrates hear evictions. Often those cases involve people who simply ran out of money. Unable to pay their rent, they must stand and watch as the landlord puts their belongings outside and then adjust to their new status as homeless.
Imagine walking up to such a person and saying: The housing court just blew $1,705 on a party at the Toledo Club, $841 on commemorative coins, and another $5,000-plus on a billboard and its “design.”
In this city, $841 is more than some people’s rent.
Obviously, this money couldn’t fix everyone’s home or pay everybody’s rent. Judge C. Allen McConnell said the fund that covered the celebration, which comes from court fees, has also been used for special projects, but not housing repair. And the propriety of spending that money to rescue particular homeowners or tenants would be highly debatable.
Still, for a court whose work so centrally involves people in desperate financial straits to indulge in an almost $8,000 celebration of itself is both callous and contemptible.
Judge McConnell, who authorized the expenditures, should have thought about how they might look to someone whose ruin is being confirmed by an order of his court.
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