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Published: Monday, 10/20/2003

Lively challenger criticizes mayor

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Defiance's one-term Mayor Fred Schultz faces opposition at the polls next month and his challenger is taking swings in his direction.

Democrat Bob Armstrong said the city is riddled with problems, including poor treatment of employees, a lack of accountability, and budgetary woes that he believes could have been managed better.

“The reason I decided to run for mayor is just the complete lack of integrity in our city. There's no trust anymore. No one is holding anyone accountable,” Mr. Armstrong said. “The city's taken a real hit from the current administration.”

Mr. Schultz, whose term in office has been clouded by findings of pornography on his city-owned computer last fall as well as the recent probe into gasoline usage by former city administrator Roger Reece, denies such claims.

The Republican said he loves being mayor and believes he's done a good job at it.

“I don't want to get into mudslinging, but I would compare my administration with any administration we've ever had,” Mayor Schultz said. “I've been brutally honest.”

The heated mayoral race in Defiance tops the Nov. 4 election ballot in Defiance County, where taxpayers will not be asked to decide on any new tax requests. All of the issues on ballots across the county are renewals.

In addition to the Defiance race, another election of note is in the village of Nye, Ohio, where 11-year Mayor Charles Brenner - who's never faced opposition until this election - is running as a write-in candidate because he filed his petitions on an outdated form. The petitions were declared invalid by the county board of elections.

In Defiance, residents will be able to hear from both of the mayoral candidates at a forum scheduled for 7 tonight at Defiance College's Schomburg Auditorium.

The candidates each will give an introduction and then field questions from the audience.

Mr. Armstrong, 61, retired as a supervisor at General Motors in 1999. He previously was on city council and he ran unsuccessfully in 1999 in the city mayoral primary, a race Mr. Schultz won.

The candidate pointed to his career as one reason why he would be a good mayor for the city. He said his management skills would be an asset to the employees and residents.

He said he wouldn't permit the “carte-blanche” spending he believes occurred when Mr. Schultz allowed Mr. Reece unlimited use of city gasoline for personal and professional reasons.

Last month, state auditors ordered Mr. Reece to repay the city nearly $500 for gasoline. The case was presented by a special prosecutor to a grand jury on Oct. 1, and no indictments were returned.

The same special prosecutor also probed the finding of pornographic material last fall on city-owned computers used by Mr. Schultz and Mr. Reece. No criminal charges were filed in that matter, and none of the material involved minors.

Mr. Schultz, 51, defended the situation involving Mr. Reece, saying it would have been difficult to divide up the administrator's gasoline usage. He said Mr. Reece wrote a check to the city and relinquished his post before the audit was released.

As for his opponent's charges that employees are not treated well, Mr. Schultz said there's a fine line in running the city and managing its employees. Foremost, he said, he needs to be held accountable to the public.

“Certainly you can't become their advocate,” Mr. Schultz said of dealing with employees and unions. “The public is the boss.”

In Nye, Mayor Brenner and three other village candidates were forced to run as write-in candidates because they unknowingly used an old form to file their petitions.

The mayor is the only one of the four who is opposed in the election.

Mr. Brenner, 75, admitted he has concerns about running as a write-in. He and other affected candidates have produced a flyer instructing residents how they can vote for a write-in.

“We're going to contact everybody,” Mr. Brenner said.

The mayor said it marks the first time he's ever had to campaign in the small village, where people know him because he's lived in town all his life. He served on council starting in 1965 and kept that job until he became mayor.

His opponent, Gary McAdow, is doing a little campaigning as well. He has dropped off literature about himself at homes on the north side of the village. He said he plans to hit the south side soon.

Mr. McAdow, 63, has lived in the village for 13 years and was president of the board of public affairs before it disbanded. He formerly was a fire chief in Ayersville, Ohio.

Both candidates for mayor are retired from their jobs.



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