McNamara steps down as council president

Mayoral hopeful denies pre-empting his coup

2/19/2013
BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Joe McNamara will step down as City Council president because he is running for mayor.
Joe McNamara will step down as City Council president because he is running for mayor.

Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara — a candidate for mayor — pre-empted an effort by a minority of his council colleagues and announced his resignation Monday as leader of the city’s legislative branch.

Mr. McNamara, who was elected to be council president at the start of this current council term, said he would step down Tuesday as president because of his campaign against Mayor Mike Bell.

He will retain his seat as an at-large member of council.

Several councilmen had been exploring options to remove him as president and elect a new leader.

Councilmen Adam Martinez and Paula Hicks-Hudson said they were asked about running for council president if Mr. McNamara could be removed. Those conversations occurred before Mr. McNamara announced he would step down.

“I had been approached to throw my hat in the ring for presidency,” Mr. Martinez said. “I let them know [Mr. McNamara] had done nothing to deserve that and that he was a fine parliamentarian. ... I wasn’t going to support the coup.”

Mr. Martinez said he now would seek the nomination to become council president.

Ms. Hicks-Hudson was coy, saying only she had been asked about her interest in replacing Mr. McNamara.

Neither she nor Mr. Martinez would identify who led the charge to replace Mr. McNamara.

Councilman Lindsay Webb said Mr. McNamara set the precedent to step down as president while running for higher office when he did so in 2010 during his unsuccessful run against Edna Brown in a primary for Ohio’s 11th Senate District.

Ms. Webb said she voted for Mr. McNamara to become council president in January, 2012, although she did not want to support him.

She also said discussions for a new president “were largely in the past.”

Mr. McNamara said the attempt to elect a new president played a minimal role in his decision to resign.

“The biggest part for me was how the mayor has been treating council and the whole water-bill debacle,” Mr. McNamara said, referring to delinquent water bills among councilmen being researched earlier this month by the mayor’s office.

Mayor Bell could not be reached for comment late Monday.

"The administration will continue to work on behalf of our citizens with whomever council selects to serve as president, as we have since the Mayor took office," said Jen Sorgenfrei, the mayor's spokesman.

Mr. McNamara said in a statement announcing his resignation that: “I have thoroughly enjoyed serving as council president. But being in public office is not about advancing one’s self interests. It’s about serving the people and always picking the difficult right over the easy wrong. I will not allow the mayor’s race to cloud council’s ability to work with the administration.”

The statement said that under his presidency, council passed two budgets early and by unanimous votes, consolidated committees, rewrote council rules, “and took steps to make city council more transparent.”

When he was elected president last year, it was the second time Mr. McNamara was in that role. He first served in the position from July, 2009, until January, 2010.

He has been an at-large council member since 2006.

Councilman Mike Craig, also a Democrat, lauded Mr. McNamara. “McNamara is a man of strong character, integrity, and honesty and has done a great job leading our council through very difficult times,” Mr. Craig said.

Councilmen are paid $27,500 a year. The council president receives an additional $4,500 a year.

Mayor Bell announced last month he would seek re-election.

Also running for mayor are Alan Cox, a city neighborhood development specialist and president of one of the city unions, and Opal Covey, a church minister.

All three are political independents.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171, or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.