The Collins administration and Toledo police are investigating the possible forgery of signatures of former Mayor Mike Bell and other city officials, including on a document authorizing a $10,000 grant for a church facade.
Mayor D. Michael Collins’ administrative assistant, Jackie Brown, flagged a document that had pieces of paper with the signatures of Mayor Bell, Law Director Adam Loukx, and the illegible signature of a city development department official affixed to it.
The discovery of the former mayor’s signature that was “cut and pasted” led Collins administration officials to search for more documents that did not have “original signatures,” city spokesman Lisa Ward said.
“One had paper pasted to it but there were others where it doesn’t appear there are original signatures,” Ms. Ward said. “The one with the cut and pasted signature has been sent to the police. ... The mayor is concerned it might be fraud, which is why he wants it looked into, but he is hoping it was just someone cutting corners.”
The most egregious case concerns a facade grant for University Bible Fellowship Church, 2841 Dorr St. The amount of money the church received under the now-defunct facade grant program is also uncertain. The Collins administration declined to release that document, citing an open police investigation. A copy obtained by The Blade shows a rectangular piece of paper pasted into the area for Mayor Bell's signature. A second piece of paper pasted to the document has the signatures of Mr. Loukx with the date July 28, 2011, and the development department official.
Ms. Ward said the amount was $10,000 in 2010 but a listing of all facade grants allocated by the city — which was prepared by the city in October in response to a Blade public-records request — showed the church received $32,500 in 2009.
“Evidently, we have to dig further,” Ms. Ward said when told of the discrepancy.
“There are a lot of things organizationally that need to be set up. There needs to be a set of procedures in place,” she said. “Personally, I think it’s just sloppy record-keeping, but even our law director said it could be fraudulent.”
Mr. Loukx said the validity of the document could be challenged since it was not actually signed. He also said he was not involved with the documents in which his signature was affixed.
Mr. Bell could not be reached for comment.
“It is definitely a police matter,” Mr. Loukx said. “We are not sure if it is criminal or noncriminal, but we are treating it as criminal until we are told otherwise.”
He added: “The signature of mine was dated so hopefully that would have prevented it from being used too many times.”
Another document — a September, 2013, contract for $1.1 million with Stansley Industries, Inc., to remove spent lime from the city’s drinking water plant — contained a “cut and pasted” signature of Commissioner of Public Utilities Don Moline and not an actual signature from company President Charles Stansley.
Although the spent lime contract was approved by Toledo City Council last year during the Bell administration, it took months for the contract to make its way to the mayor’s office. Mayor Collins declined to sign the document.
Ms. Ward said Mayor Collins declined signing a more recent contract with Kalida Truck Equipment of Kalida, Ohio, because it did not have an original signature of a company official. Instead, the signature appeared to be automatically generated.
That contract also contained the wrong dollar figure. It listed the total price for five vehicles as $70,719, rather than the actual price of $353,595. Mayor Collins found that inaccuracy and sent it back to the city’s purchasing department.
Mayor Collins told The Blade that he refused to allow his signature to be scanned and used as a computer-generated automatic signature.
“I am signing all purchase orders myself and I have kicked some back already,” he said.
There are other discrepancies with the city’s federally funded facade grant records.
In August, 2009, then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner announced that Spring Garden Restaurant, 124 Broadway, which has since closed, would get a $6,000 facade grant. The document listing all facade grants since 2000 does not show that grant.