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Published: Saturday, 9/15/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Mayor hires social media expert to tell Toledo's story

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sensing a void in Toledo’s social-media and online presence, the Bell administration has hired a full-time tweeter, Facebook-user, and all-around Web expert to help tell the city’s story.

The city, which is already on Facebook but never officially tweeted, hired Andrew Rinaldi of Perrysburg, this week and will pay him $34,153 a year.

Mr. Rinaldi said his work will help the city “get its word out to audiences it traditionally cannot, and also out to a larger audience at a lower cost.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Mike Bell authorized a redesign of the city’s Web site, Toledo.oh.gov, but it has not yet gone live. The old site is still visible online.

The redesign cost less than $10,000, said City Spokesman Jen Sorgenfrei.

Hiring Mr. Rinaldi was the next step in promoting the city digitally, she said.

“He will be responsible for the Web site and for managing the city’s social accounts and further develop the social media and online presence.

There are multiple Twitter accounts about the city of Toledo, and several parody accounts have come and gone since Twitter’s creation. Last year, the city successfully asked Twitter to shut down an account that purported to be the city's official voice.

“These people were asserting themselves as the mayor,” Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

The city started up a Facebook page in April and now has 420 “likes.” The site offers news and information about Toledo, including upcoming events and current projects, as well as photos of city landmarks.

Soon after the mayor took office, a parody Facebook page of the mayor’s mustache was created. It can be found by searching for “Toledo Mayor Mike Bell’s Mustache.”

Mr. Bell, who currently sports a beard, found humor in that page, Ms. Sorgenfrei said.

Some on council were displeased with the mayor’s appointment of a social-media staffer for his administration.

“I am very surprised the mayor would take this step as it relates to social media, given the fact that there is still been no explanation as to how $70,000 purchases of vehicles could be justified as legitimate based upon the ordinance the administration presented,” Councilman D. Michael Collins said.

He was referring to a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe equipped with a luxury package costing $42,000, and a 2011 GMC Terrain that cost Toledo taxpayers $26,516.

“I think it is a cavalier approach to the office of mayor and sending a message that ‘I have the power, I use the power, and quite frankly you are powerless,’” Mr. Collins said. “The mayor spending over $100,000 in salaries for public information person and a social media person is not my definition of austerity management.”

Ms. Sorgenfrei is paid $60,000 a year.

Ms. Rinaldi has worked for the city in the past — through a temp agency and not a full-time employee.

Earlier this year Toledo City Council balked at Mr. Bell’s proposal to pay $60,000 to a consultant who had worked on his 2009 campaign. Six months later, the mayor used an employment agency and employed the former political supporter, Steven Cady, an associate professor in Bowling Green State University’s college of business.

In June, Mr. Cady had already been paid $50,245 for his services, city records showed. He has continued since then to do city work and collect public compensation.

A list of city employees working through employment agencies showed 142 people, including two people under the heading “clerical — administrative seasonals.” Among them were Ms. Rinaldi and Mr. Cady, whose resume and LinkedIn profile identifies him as the technology director at the Cady Group LLC and a former technology graduate student at the division of student affairs for BGSU.

Council President JoeMcNamara, whose Twitter account is @Josephmcnamara, said the city’s information technology department and the Web site have frustrated him repeatedly.

“There are some serious problems with the information technology department and I have some very seriously frustrating problems dealing with the Web page,” he said. “That said, social media is a youthful way way to communicate with taxpayers... [Mr.] Cady was a political supporter of the mayor and I think the better thing to do would have been to put this out for bid to make sure there can’t be any appearance or impropriety.”

The city’s Twitter account is not active, and neither Ms. Sorgenfrei nor Mr. Rinaldi would identify an account name.

On the city’s Facebook page, people are encouraged to offer their feedback and ideas, although profanity, spam, business solicitations, and political advertisements are forbidden.

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



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