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Published: Wednesday, 5/10/2006

Waived penalties, fees not my fault, Kest says

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kaczala Kaczala
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Former Lucas County Treasurer Ray Kest - who last week declined to respond to questions about at least $2.8 million in waived penalties and fees granted to property owners between 2000 and 2004 when he was in office - this week claims he wasn't at fault.

Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz discovered the waivers late last year during an audit he ordered shortly after taking office. The $2.8 million figure includes more than $222,300 in relief for people listed as donors to Mr. Kest's campaigns.

Currently, the treasurer's office and the Lucas County prosecutor's office are looking to see whether some of the money should be recouped because Ohio law prohibits the treasurer from granting fee waivers without a hearing and other due process. The audit did not find paperwork supporting the waivers.

When contacted by The Blade last week for comment, Mr. Kest said he did not want to talk anyone from the newspaper. But in an e-mail sent to Blade Editor Tom Walton, Mr. Kest said that he "did not have the means, or access to the compute programs to abate any penalties" and that "only the auditor can abate penalties."

But local officials say that Mr. Kest is again trying to blame others for his own errors.

Kest Kest
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Lucas County Auditor Larry Kaczala said he also received information from Mr. Kest, who currently resides in Florida, that cast blame on his office. He said the e-mail was "the typical Ray Kest response. It's not his fault."

Mr. Kaczala said that while it is his office that is in charge of the computer system, he relies on other elected officials to provide him with accurate information.

"All the changes to the system go through the system administrator, but it's not the administrator who makes those changes," he said. "It's like the budget and the commissioners' role in creating it. I write the checks, but I don't set the budget."

Mr. Kapszukiewicz, who also received information from Mr. Kest, said that what his predecessor allowed continues to hurt taxpayers and entities, such as schools and parks, that were cheated out of the penalties and fees.

John Irish, who served as deputy director of the Treasurer's office under Ray Kest and is currently vying for a seat on Toledo city council, did not return calls yesterday seeking comment on Mr. Kest's policies.

"Just when you thought Ray couldn't hurt the community anymore, his policies cost the taxpayers nearly $3 million," Mr. Kapszukiewicz said. "We found something that Ray was doing wrong. We found it, we fixed it, and we're going to do what we can to collect the money for the taxpayers."



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