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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2005

Union official s candidacy attacked


Toledo City Council candidate Mark Sobczak came under attack yesterday from two rival candidates who contend his work for a city employees union would hinder his ability to represent taxpayers on council.

Karen Shanahan and Robert Vasquez issued a statement claiming that, unlike Mr. Sobczak, they could participate in all the important decisions on how your tax dollars are spent.

Mr. Sobczak, vice president of Teamsters Local 20, came in sixth in the primary voting among the 16 candidates Tuesday. Mrs. Shanahan and Mr. Vasquez came in seventh and ninth, respectively. All three are Democrats. A runoff election among the top 12 vote-getters for six at-large council seats is set for Nov. 8.

City Law Director Barbara Herring has said Mr. Sobczak would have to abstain from any votes involving city unions and could not participate in closed-door discussions involving union negotiations. But Mr. Sobczak maintains he will have to abstain only when the Teamsters contract is voted on, which happens every three years.

Local 20 represents about 240 blue-collar and clerical employees in refuse collection, landfill operations, and wastewater treatment.

He said Ms. Herring is wrong and that the issue is being exaggerated for political reasons.

It s purely politically driven because I don t support the current administration, Mr. Sobczak said. It s a political attack, and it s based on my career 25 years fighting for the rights of the working man.

Mr. Sobczak is backed by the Lucas County Democratic Party, which is supporting mayoral challenger Carty Finkbeiner against incumbent Democrat Jack Ford.

Mrs. Shanahan and Mr. Vasquez are endorsed by LucasCountyDemocrats.org, a political action committee that is backing Mr. Ford.

People need to be informed that there is a conflict, Mrs. Shanahan said. Mr. Vasquez, who brought a half of a wooden chair as a visual prop to make his point that Mr. Sobczak could only be a half-time councilman, said Mr. Sobczak s participation in discussions involving city unions will put the city in a precarious position because it could invite a lawsuit.

Ms. Herring s written opinion was shared with members of Toledo City Council shortly after it was prepared Jan. 10.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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