OK, so he's not Sheriff Buford Pusser. Still, city finance director John Bibish sure is “walking tall.”
The city hall veteran shocked everyone Wednesday by literally standing up to Toledo's top elected bully, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.
As news accounts outlined, the mild-mannered CPA did what few other mayoral underlings have ever done: After Carty spat another of his legendary insults, Mr. Bibish stood and walked out of Hizzoner's weekly marathon staff meeting.
“People don't view John as having a particularly strong personality, but he didn't come off that way Wednesday!” exclaimed one top staffer, who, like everyone who works for the hot-tempered mayor, would rather drink bleach than be quoted by name.
“John was very strong, and he really caught the mayor off-guard for a moment. The mayor's whole demeanor was: `This is not what I planned. I'm losing control here.' And control is what it's all about for Carty,” said this source.
Interestingly enough, as insults go, city hall insiders say Carty's name-calling wasn't nearly as spirited or vulgar as it can often be: He called Mr. Bibish a “bean counter,” a “narrow-butt, scraggly-faced” SOB.
But everyone's got their breaking point, and, for Mr. Bibish, that was apparently his. Of the six or so other administrators targeted by Carty for this week's abuse-o-rama Smack Down, Mr. Bibish alone spoke up.
From someone at the staff meeting: “Bibish said to the mayor, `What did you call me?' And the mayor repeated it. And Bibish said, `That's it,' and stood up. He very deliberately got all his folders, and he put his appointment book on top, and the mayor looked at him and snarled, `If you walk out of here, you're fired!' and Bibish just said, `That's it,' and very calmly left.”
A symbolic victory for all mayoral underlings?
“He's kind of a role model around here right now,” said this meeting attendee. “He's got his back straight and his head up high. John Bibish is the last person you would think to do something like this, but you know, still waters run deep.”
That the mayor apparently talked the finance director out of resigning does not take away from Mr. Bibish's display of backbone. Just half a year or so away from reaching that point where his unused sick time could be transformed into one whopper severance package, no one thinks he wimped out.
“Many of the people who walked away [from the Finkbeiner administration] had five years [city employment] or less,” said a staffer, “but if you've got a lot of years here, you would lose $50,000, $60,000.”
That Carty has just 394 days left in his term-limited gig is no doubt carefully marked off on every Dilbert desk calendar in city hall.
As for Mr. Bibish, said one of the insiders I spoke with, “he hasn't said a lot about what happened in his meeting [with Carty]. But then, he wouldn't. He's honorable.”
Besides, said this source, “the one nice thing is we'll have good behavior out of [Carty] for a week or so. Usually, we get a respite.”
A pause, and then the staffer said: “No, wait. Somebody's getting yelled at right now. I can hear it.”
Roberta de Boer's column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays,
and Saturdays. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-419-724-6086.
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