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Published: Thursday, 4/20/2006

Sarantou rips Haynam over lawsuit against school board

BY JOSHUA BOAK
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lucas County commissioner candidate George Sarantou has contested opponent Pam Haynam's claims to being a "real Republican," citing a lawsuit she filed against her fellow Sylvania school board members in 2002.

The lawsuit alleged that Ms. Haynam was illegally excluded from a board meeting. It cost taxpayers $23,504 in legal fees, school district treasurer Carol McElfresh said.

Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates denied the restraining order. The suit was dismissed a month after it was filed.

"Her actions, by filing a lawsuit, obviously do not point to being a fiscal watchdog," said Mr. Sarantou, a Toledo City Council member. "And clearly it does not speak well to her ability to work with other elected officials."

A self-described "mom on a mission" who favors low taxes and limited government spending, Ms. Haynam yesterday justified the lawsuit. "Since that time, I think the district has done a much better job of keeping the business of the district in the public view," she said.

On Dec. 11, 2002, Ms. Haynam received an e-mail from then- board President Mark Luetke, a political consultant now working for Phil Copeland, a Democrat running for commissioner.

"Pam - I tried to reach you this afternoon as part of my call-around to all the board members regarding a devopment [sic] in our Treasurer search," it began.

After consulting with the three other board members, Mr. Luetke wrote that they had agreed unofficially to name Arlene Wilson, the outgoing treasurer, as interim treasurer. In her lawsuit, Ms. Haynam said Mr. Luetke's exchanges with other board members violated the Ohio Public Meetings Act, which requires the board to give the public advance notice of any hearings.

With Ms. Haynam as the lone dissenter, the board later hired Mrs. Wilson at an annual salary of $86,971, a $16,000 raise.

"The unwise use of district tax dollars was giving a treasurer who quit a bonus," Ms. Haynam said. "I would have preferred to go out and find another treasurer who'd be loyal to the district."

Taxes have been a central theme for Ms. Haynam, who attacked Mr. Sarantou at a candidate's debate last week for approving a recent increase in city assessment taxes, which pay for clearing snow and leaves.

As the May 2 primary approaches, both candidates have questioned the other's temperament for being commissioner.

"Clearly, my leadership is collaboration and solving problems, rather than just voting no and not offering solutions," Mr. Sarantou said.

Ms. Haynam disagreed with her opponent's analysis.

"I can work with anybody, but they have to abide by the law," Ms. Haynam said. "And for me to work with them, they have to listen to my point of view, even if it's the minority view."

Ms. Haynam charged that Mr. Sarantou is too quick to compromise with other politicians.

"Have there been any times during his time on council when he's disagreed with Democrats and stood up for Republican principles?" she asked.

In response, Mr. Sarantou said he resisted pressure from Democrats to raise income taxes three years ago to improve the city's municipal bond ratings.

"She's attempting to distort my record, which is unfortunate," he said.

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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