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Published: Wednesday, 10/17/2012

Collins calls out Bell on laundry list of questions


The list of questions Toledo councilmen have asked the Bell administration this year is longer than the list of answers they have gotten back.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, who is known for butting heads with Mayor Mike Bell, asked Tuesday for answers through a letter sent to Mr. Bell. Seventeen questions — all official requests for information made during council meetings — remain unanswered.

“The [questions] run from January through September,” Mr. Collins said in the letter. “In addition to the ones listed below, my council colleagues have more than 20 referrals outstanding that they may want to see answers for.”

The questions from Mr. Collins include a request for information on a missing forklift; an explanation of how the city fire department exceeded its 2011 budget by “well over $1 million” if the merger with the Ottawa Hills fire department achieved an expected $900,000 savings; a list of mayor’s office employees with a comparison to the last several years, and the number of vacant beds the city funds at the Lucas County jail.

Mr. Collins said council needs answers to its questions before the 2013 budget approval process starts next month. Jen Sorgenfrei, Mayor Bell’s spokesman, said she had not seen the letter from Mr. Collins and declined to comment.

A more recent “referral,” asked by both Mr. Collins and Councilman George Sarantou, deals with the purchase of a 2013 Chevy Tahoe for $42,000 and a 2011 GMC Terrain that cost Toledo taxpayers $26,516.

Mr. Collins said the Terrain was purchased out of the assessed fund for street sweeping, and the Tahoe was purchased with the city’s Streets, Bridges and Harbor Fund. Both councilmen wanted to know if the sport utility vehicles were legally purchased. Mr. Collins also asked how many times investors or dignitaries were transported in the two vehicles. “There is nothing in the budget to provide for a fleet of cars for the mayor’s office,” he said of the legal question.

Mr. Collins also is waiting for a breakdown of what the city spent for Navy Week this summer, the total concession percentages over the life of each current city collective bargaining agreement, and how much has been paid to a former campaign supporter of Mayor Bell who now works as a consultant for the city.

Mr. Sarantou said he’s been very patient for an answer to his questions. “It is bothersome to me,” he said. “The question on there about the automobiles and what department it is going to come out of — and I have yet to get an answer to a very simple question. ... I am not going to ignore it, and I think the taxpayers deserve answers.”

Council President Joe Mc-Namara said the Bell administration has been good at answering his questions. “For city government to function, the administration has to answer referral requests in a reasonable amount of time,” Mr. McNamara said.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.

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