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Published: Friday, 7/18/2008

Head of LCIC resigns, cites potential conflict

BY ALEX M. PARKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Citing the possibility of a conflict of interest, Rob Robinson stepped down yesterday as president of the board of directors for the Lucas County Improvement Corp.

Mr. Robinson, who was appointed president and chairman of the economic development agency's executive committee in January, said he was worried some of the clients of his company, IP Dynamics LLC, also might have dealings with the LCIC.

He said he made his decision after discussing the issue with an IP Dynamics attorney, his business partners, and other LCIC board members.

"I don't even want to have suspicions about my ethics," Mr. Robinson said. "I came to the conclusion that it's time to pull the plug. I'm not going to endanger the company."

Mr. Robinson sent a letter of resignation yesterday afternoon to Matt Sapara, the agency's interim director.

He said he asked IP Dynamics' attorney to look into the issue after he realized that several of his clients also had dealt with the LCIC.

The attorney told him that any vote he cast involving one of those companies could create a potential ethical issue, Mr. Robinson said.

Although no such votes have been taken, Mr. Robinson said it would be difficult to make sure there were no violations in the future.

Despite his departure, Mr. Robinson said he will continue to support the LCIC, and blamed its critics for undermining the agency and failing to realize its potential.

He also said the agency could not function without an increase in funding.

"It has to be properly set up, with at least $750,000 annually. Right now, it's limping along with far less than that, with no long-term commitment of funding," he said.

"It needs support. So I'm stepping aside from the official role, but I'm not leaving the LCIC. I'm not going to abandon Matt [Sapara.] I really believe in the LCIC."

With Mr. Robinson off the board, the Lucas County commissioners will have to appoint a replacement, while the LCIC's executive board will appoint a new president and board chairman.

County Commissioner Pete Gerken praised Mr. Robinson's tenure as board president, which began as the agency was in turmoil following the resignation of its then-director, Craig Ferguson.

"He certainly took the agency through an extremely difficult time," Mr. Gerken said. "He brought people together. His ability to build consensus has been amazing."

But Commissioner Ben Konop, a persistent critic of the LCIC, seized on the resignation to claim the agency has failed in its mission.

"I think this is just the continued pattern of the LCIC, which is a lack of results, a lack of focus by its leadership, conflicts of interest, and really just a continued wasting of well over a million dollars of taxpayer money on an entity that's dogged by mismanagement," Mr. Konop said.

Shortly before Mr. Robinson sent in his resignation, Mr. Konop sent a letter to the LCIC asking it to evaluate its progress, based on an October resolution from the county commissioners.

The resolution asked the agency to rate itself based on several criteria, including a list of businesses that have been contacted and the number of jobs that have been brought into the community.

Contact Alex M. Parker at:

aparker@theblade.com

or 419-724-6107.



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