In the latest attack on her Democratic rival, Gina-Marie Kaczala - the Republican candidate for Lucas County auditor - Wednesday accused incumbent auditor Anita Lopez of outsourcing hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of jobs to firms outside the area.
Brandishing copies of contracts that were made between the auditor's office and firms in Findlay and Dublin, Ohio, over the last three years, Ms. Kaczala charged her opponent with squandering money and local talent.
"I think it's an insult to men and women who are desperately looking for jobs in Lucas County and Toledo," Ms. Kaczala said. "She's outsourcing, and there's never a reason to outsource in Lucas County with the unemployment rate that we have."
The contracts, which date between 2007 and 2009, amount to a total of $244,150 paid to out-of-county experts for assessment and auditing services, the preparation of financial reports, and assistance with reviewing complaints over property valuations.
Ms. Kaczala linked the outsourcing done by Ms. Lopez's office with what she claimed is a lack of competent and qualified staff in the auditor's department. She said Ms. Lopez has replaced able staff with political allies.
"It's the cronyism that's going on here," Ms. Kaczala said. "Ms. Lopez has hired people that are not qualified."
Ms. Lopez responded to The Blade's request for an interview with a written statement from her campaign office Wednesday evening. A spokesman for Ms. Lopez's campaign said the auditor could not immediately be reached for comment. In the statement, Ms. Lopez did not directly address Ms. Kaczala's outsourcing complaints but stated that her office is "committed to hire citizens and companies both locally and in the State of Ohio."
The incumbent also accused her predecessor - Ms. Kaczala's late husband Larry Kaczala - of bad management and overspending, and said she has been working to fix those mistakes.
"Since taking office, I have reduced spending by over $500,000 and we are more efficient and responsive to citizens and businesses," Ms. Lopez said. "The Lopez administration has refunded millions of dollars to nearly 70,000 citizens and businesses due to the Kaczala administration errors."
Ms. Lopez unseated Mrs. Kaczala's late husband in the 2006 auditor's race.
Also Wednesday, Ms. Kaczala and her staff members complained that Ms. Lopez's office had not responded promptly to requests made for public documents. Ms. Kaczala's associate, Kelly Bensman, said she asked three weeks ago for information about the number of seasonal, temporary, and extra employees hired by the auditor's office and is still waiting for the information. She accused the auditor's office of using "stalling tactics."
In her statement, Ms. Lopez said her office had received a request for more than 1 million documents and that her office is still trying to process them. Ms. Kaczala said that request is a different one from that referred to by Ms. Bensman.
Ms. Kaczala also called on Ms. Lopez to fire her appraisal director, Emmanuel Yakumithis, whose real-estate license lapsed and was denied when he tried to have it reinstated. A January, 2007, letter to Mr. Yakumithis from the Ohio Department of Commerce stated that he was denied certification because he failed to demonstrate that he is "honest, truthful, and of good reputation." A spokesman for the department could not explain Wednesday the reason for this conclusion.
In her statement, Ms. Lopez defended Mr. Yakumithis and said he could not renew his license because of new state requirements that candidates hold a bachelor's degree. She said Mr. Yakumithis is now enrolled in the University of Toledo and plans to complete this requirement.
Ms. Lopez accused her opponent of lacking relevant qualifications herself.
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