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Published: Thursday, 2/15/2007

Strickland's cabinet choices draw criticism

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Carty Finkbeiner was an early supporter of Ted Strickland's gubernatorial campaign. Now he's an early critic of the new governor.

Toledo's mayor declared himself "very disappointed on the foot-dragging regarding key persons and positions that involve Toledoans" in an e-mail sent to Mr. Strickland's chief of staff less than a month after the governor took office.

The Jan. 26 message goes on to decry Mr. Strickland's failure to fill a regional deputy director position at the state transportation department, for which Mr. Finkbeiner said he had recommended three candidates.

It complains that Keith Earley, the Lucas County engineer who was at the time a candidate for transportation department director, "remains on the sidelines." This week, Mr. Strickland tapped the Brown County engineer for the directorship; Mr. Earley confirmed he had been a finalist for the job.

Mr. Finkbeiner said in the e-mail that John Irish, the Lucas County Democratic Party chairman, shared his disappointment in "your lack of understanding the importance of these appointments to Toledoans."

Through a spokesman, Mr. Finkbeiner declined to comment on the e-mail yesterday, which was released by the mayor's and the governor's offices in response to public records requests from The Blade.

A Strickland spokesman, Keith Dailey, said the governor had assembled a cabinet "that will serve the state well."

"Northwest Ohio is a very important part of the state," Mr. Dailey said. "All of the cabinet members know that Governor Strickland values northwest Ohio, because he's made that clear to everyone."

Mr. Strickland is Ohio's first Democratic governor in 16 years. Mr. Finkbeiner, also a Democrat, was one of the first big-city mayors to sign on to the former southeast Ohio congressman's campaign, a move Mr. Strickland and his advisers have repeatedly said they appreciate.

The governor has filled 17 of his 23 cabinet positions. Eight appointees hail from Columbus, the most of any region by far. Only one is from Democratic stronghold Cleveland.

Northwest Ohio has two: Dr. Alvin Jackson of Fremont, the health department director, and John Martin of Toledo, who heads the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

The selections did not impress Mr. Finkbeiner.

"There is no one presently on the Strickland-Fisher team from northwest Ohio that I am aware of," he wrote in the e-mail, "except John Martin, who none of us know."

The three candidates Mr. Finkbeiner said he recommended for the regional transportation department job included Jerry Chabler, a former Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board member who coordinated Mr. Strickland's northwest Ohio campaign fund-raising.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Irish said Mr. Finkbeiner's letter was meant to champion Mr. Chabler and other residents of heavily Democratic northwest Ohio who sometimes felt overlooked by past administrations.

"We haven't gotten the credit in the past, and I think up to this part, we haven't gotten the credit we deserve - especially from a Democrat," Mr. Irish said. "Toledo is very important for a Democrat to capture statewide office. I think we deserve more attention than we're getting."

Some other local Democrats said they'll give Mr. Strickland the benefit of the doubt.

"Obviously it's important to have representation in his cabinet," said Wade Kapszukiewicz, the Lucas County treasurer and the deputy northwest Ohio fund-raising chair for the Strickland campaign. "What's more important for me is dollars for northwest Ohio projects."

Mr. Finkbeiner met personally with Mr. Strickland in Columbus last week. The governor's spokesman said he could not divulge what the men discussed.

Jim Provance of The Blade's Columbus bureau contributed to this report.

Contact Jim Tankersley at:

jtankersley@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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