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Published: Friday, 5/15/2009

WSPD denies accusation of supporting coalition fielding 6 candidates for council

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

It's getting crowded out there on the political hustings.

A new political party, or coalition, that grew out of the anti-tax Tea Party rally last month is organizing to field a full slate of candidates for Toledo City Council this year.

Teamwork Toledo, with its fiscally conservative philosophy, has quietly fielded four candidates for Toledo City Council's six at-large seats, and plans to enter two more, spokesman Tricia Lyons said.

"We're all politically independent and fiscally conservative," said Ms. Lyons, who was the local organizer of the Toledo Tax Day Tea Party rally on April 15. The event drew more than 1,000 people. "I wouldn't really say we're a third party, but we're all running on a like-minded agenda."

All six at-large seats are up for election in a primary Sept. 15 and the general election Nov. 3. The seats are four year terms.

Five of the six at-large council incumbents are eligible to run for another term. They are Democrats Joe McNamara, Phil Copeland, Frank Szollosi, and Mark Sobczak, and Republican George Sarantou.

The sixth incumbent, Republican Betty Shultz, is barred from running again because of city charter term limits.

So far, 23 people have taken out petitions from the Lucas County Board of Elections for council.

Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County Republican Party chairman, said the GOP will endorse six candidates for council.

He said Ms. Lyons appears to be getting encouragement and support from WSPD-Radio, AM 1370, which is involved in local politics through the effort to recall Mayor Carty Finkbeiner.

"There was a meeting with [WSPD reporter] Kevin Milliken and other Clear Channel employees and they were discussing the formation of this other political party," Mr. Stainbrook said.

Mr. Milliken did not deny some involvement with Teamwork Toledo, but said he would make his involvement clear in a news conference set for this afternoon, his last day with WSPD.

He denied as "patently false" that he was involved in a meeting at the radio station about Teamwork Toledo.

Ms. Lyons said, "there is no affiliation with WSPD other than them sending reporters to cover us."

Political action would not be new to WSPD personnel, some of whom are active in Take Back Toledo, the group seeking to force Mayor Finkbeiner out of office with a few months left in his term.

The four Teamwork Toledo candidates so far are John Adams, Jr., 33, 3211 Astor Ave., who is a delivery contractor with FedEx Home Delivery and a former member of the Ohio National Guard; Ms. Lyons, 43, of West Toledo; Michael Watson, 44, of West Toledo; and Ty Daniels, 42, of South Toledo.

Mr. Adams, the most recent of the candidates to declare, said, "We have a lot of the same ideas but different areas of expertise. We thought as a team you pull that together, maybe we can be more effective for the people."

Mr. Watson said his goal is to protect families and small-business owners from higher taxes.

Andy Stuart, vice president and market manager for Toledo operations of station owner Clear Channel Radio, said he is not involved with Teamwork Toledo and has no interest in backing a third party.

He said if there was a meeting to discuss Teamwork Toledo, he didn't know about it.

Mr. Stuart, a charter member of Take Back Toledo, said the group will endorse and support a candidate for mayor, and may endorse for city council, as well.

He said Mr. Milliken has resigned, effective Friday, to pursue other opportunities, and said he didn't know what those were.

Mr. Stainbrook said he didn't buy Mr. Stuart's denials: "It's plain to see that certain WSPD employees are more interested in manipulating local politics than being unbiased in reporting politics.

"Convicted [Tom] Noe conduit Maggie Thurber, one of the Lucas County Republican Party's chief critics, is a paid broadcaster for WSPD and a columnist for the Toledo Free Press. So obviously I question their true motives," the GOP chairman said.

Ms. Thurber, a former Republican Lucas County commissioner, a columnist for The Toledo Free Press, a free weekly publication, and a show host for WSPD, said she helped Ms. Lyons with organizing the Tea Party, but has not been involved in her foray into politics.

Ms. Thurber in June, 2006, was convicted and fined as part of former GOP fund-raiser Tom Noe's scheme to illegally funnel $45,000 in campaign contribution through Ms. Thurber and other elected and appointed Republicans to the 2004 re-election campaign of George W. Bush.

Ms. Thurber pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of failing to disclose a gift from Noe - the cost of attending the October, 2003, Bush fund-raiser.

Judge Mark Reddin of Bowling Green Municipal Court found her guilty and fined her $1,000 piece, plus court costs and the cost of the investigation.

He could have imposed a jail sentence of up to six months.

Noe served almost two years in federal prison for violating campaign laws.

He's now serving an 18-year sentence in state prison for stealing millions from a rare-coin fund he managed for the state.

Ms. Thurber and the other Noe conduits were granted immunity by the U.S.

attorney's office from federal charges in exchange for their cooperation with the investigation.

That immunity did not extend to state charges. Because she was an elected official, she was subject to the state's ethics disclosure laws.

In the Noe case, Ms. Thurber was charged with not disclosing the gift of a meal - the cost of the Bush fund-raiser itself paid for by Noe.

Ms. Thurber told investigators at the time that her husband, Sam, claimed a $3,750 check from Noe was "for work." She later said, after questioned by the FBI, that it was "probably more in fact a gift."

The investigative reports released after Ms. Thurber was convicted revealed additional details about her relationship with Noe and his wife, Bernadette Noe, both former Lucas County Republican Party chairmen.

Ms. Thurber acknowledged to investigators that she and her husband, Sam, were close friends of the Noes and had stayed in the Noes' vacation home in the Florida Keys and accepted wine from them. Ms. Thurber had also participated in two of the now-infamous "Noe Supper Club" meetings at Morton's Steakhouse in Columbus that triggered the convictions of two former aides to former Republican Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.

The report indicates that, in addition to not disclosing the 2003 Bush fund-raiser money, Ms. Thurber should have disclosed gifts in 2002 and 2004.

She was not charged with either.



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