Less than two weeks before Election Day, Mayor Mike Bell accused his opponent, Councilman D. Michael Collins, of “purposely trying to be inaccurate” and mislead voters.
“When he talks about what I have done with hiring police officers, he is purposely being inaccurate because when you look at the six years before I became mayor, only 30 officers were hired; three years before I got here, no officers were hired,” Mayor Bell told The Blade. “During the period of time I have been here, 190 officers have been hired, so anything I am short on is not because of anything I did; it was because of what happened before I got here.”
During an informal debate organized by the Toledo Board of Realtors on Tuesday, Mr. Collins said Toledo has about 15 fewer police officers today than it did just before Mayor Bell took office in January, 2010.
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Mr. Collins held firm on that point when asked Wednesday about the numbers.
“I do not disagree that he has hired that many,” Mr. Collins said. “I am saying he misrepresented that he hired 190 officers because that implies that he has increased the police presence in the city of Toledo when in fact the number is fewer than when he took office.”
Mr. Collins said the city had 483 police patrolmen and 153 police command officers on Dec. 31, 2009. On Oct. 7, 2013, the department had 446 patrolmen and 136 command officers.
Seventy-five more police officers were hired this month, but they will be in training for about six months.
Mr. Collins on Tuesday also criticized the mayor about two long-running lawsuits involving the city.
A fact check of Mr. Collins’ criticisms shows some inaccuracies.
Three female employees accused the Toledo Fire Department of gender discrimination while Mr. Bell was fire chief.
Capt. Carla Stachura and firefighters Judi Imhoff and Geraldine McCalland filed a suit in November, 2005, accusing the city and three fire department officials of gender discrimination and creating a hostile work environment for women. All three claimed department officials failed to take action after co-workers subjected them to verbal abuse and sexually demeaning language. The three officials named in the suit were Mr. Bell and former Deputy Chiefs John Coleman and Robert Metzger.
Mr. Collins erred by stating the case is in the 6th District Court of Appeals. It is in the Supreme Court of Ohio on an appeal.
Mr. Collins also indicated the city incurred major losses in the case, which the record does not seem to support.
The case initially was won by the city on a motion for summary judgment in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. That was taken to the appeals court, which ordered it back to common pleas. At that point, the city renewed its motion for summary judgment.
The common pleas court ruled against the city motion to rule the individual employees as immune. The 6th District Court subsequently ruled against the city as well.
Mr. Collins also said the city has “well over $1.25 million of liability” in its dispute with the Toledo Police Command Officers’ Association union over “forced concessions” pushed by Mayor Bell and approved by a majority of council in early 2010.
He said the 6th District Court of Appeals had ruled against the city and the case is now before the Supreme Court of Ohio. That is not correct.
Two cases from the union are before the 6th District Court of Appeals. In fact, the appeals court heard oral arguments in one of the union-related cases Wednesday morning.
That case began with the union’s filing before the State Employment Relations Board.
That board ruled in the city’s favor. The union appealed to Lucas County Common Pleas Court, which reversed the state board’s ruling. The state board and the city subsequently appealed that to the 6th District Court of Appeals.
City Law Director Adam Loukx interrupted Mayor Bell on Wednesday when he was asked about the lawsuits.
“If it is a mayor or a councilperson, it is grossly inappropriate to discuss as though liability has been decided [for] cases pending against the city as part of a political race,” Mr. Loukx said.
“Whether you are a member of council, a director, the mayor, or anyone else, to comment on litigation and treat it as though there is a conclusion [which] has already been reached is not proper,” he said. “The city is confident in its position and to suggest that the existence of litigation is proof of some underlying problem or issue is disingenuous.”
Also Tuesday, while speaking to the ONE Village Council inside the Chester Zablocki Senior Center on Lagrange Street, Mr. Collins brought up the $1 million in construction contracts that were given to a firm formed by Mayor Bell’s niece, Shayla Bell, in 2010 and 2011. He said the city’s Department of Neighborhoods gave $1 million to “a niece who has never had any experience whatsoever in reconstruction or remodeling of houses because she’s your niece.”
The mayor called that unfair.
“She might have made $30,000 or $35,000 a year in a two or three-year period, but when he is talking, you would expect that she is a millionaire,” Mayor Bell said. “There was no ethics violation. She had a right to do what she was doing. She just happened to be my niece.”