The mayor who once labeled a neighboring city as a Peyton Place has turned back the covers on a melodrama rivaling that famous tale of small-town pettiness right in his own city but is also facing questions about his own motivations.
Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has demanded an investigation into allegations of an extramarital affair involving James Hartung, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, the agency that oversees economic growth in the region.
At the same time, some are wondering whether Mr. Finkbeiner s championing of morals isn t simply a reaction to being left out of the loop over a series of recent development projects.
How is it that Carty Finkbeiner is suddenly the morals police officer here? asked Brian McMahon, a developer who has clashed with Mr. Finkbeiner over a proposal for an intermodal hub near the Toledo Express Airport.
Mayor Finkbeiner says the port authority has been a mess.
Mr. Finkbeiner s publicized accusations involving Mr. Hartung have forced an inquiry into the culture of the port authority, Toledo s lead economic development agency.
There has been a mess in place and there has been for the last few years, Mr. Finkbeiner said during a news conference on Wednesday. It needs to be brought to a cleansing position, cleaned up, eliminated so they can move forward without any of that which has taken place in the last few years.
On July 11, Mr. Finkbeiner went public with an accusation he had heard from recognized persons in our community that Mr. Hartung had had an extramarital affair with Kathy Teigland, a former administrative aide to U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio) who had been hired to serve as a lobbyist for a consortium of Lucas County governments, colleges, and economic development agencies.
Mr. Finkbeiner said Mr. Hartung had been aggressively lobbying him during 2007 and 2008 about paying a $25,000 bill from Ms. Teigland for her lobbying work.
After Mr. Finkbeiner rebuffed his efforts, saying the city couldn t afford it, Mr. Hartung started approaching the mayor s underlings about the matter.
In a terse note Oct. 16, Mr. Finkbeiner said Ms. Teigland had earned nothing.
The conduct of port chief James Hartung is being questioned.
This year we have a $10 million budget deficit, Kathy delivered nothing. I don t believe we owe Kathy a penny, the mayor wrote.
The city later paid $5,000 to the Legislative Consortium and declared the relationship terminated.
Mr. Finkbeiner called on port authority Chairman William Carroll to investigate accusations of the affair. In a letter released July 11, the mayor said he had a concern about the reputation and/or moral fiber of the port authority. He also wrote that something s very wrong about the chief sponsor of a lobbyist having an alleged extramarital affair with that same person.
The mayor went a step further Wednesday and called for an outside inquiry. Mr. Carroll has hired an investigator.
Mr. Hartung has been silent about the accusation.
Kevin Greenfield, an attorney for Mr. Hartung, said his client was cooperating with the investigation of the alleged affair.
[Mr. Hartung] has fully complied with all of the terms of his employment duty, and he will keep doing so, Mr. Greenfield said.
James Hartung and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner were all smiles when they appeared at a press conference in December, 1998.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge
Ms. Teigland has not returned telephone calls from The Blade.
Mr. Hartung s quest for funds to support Ms. Teigland s services as a lobbyist also met resistance from at least one other member of the consortium as her contract wound to a close.
Steve Weathers, president of the Regional Growth Partnership economic development agency, said he didn t want to contribute when Mr. Hartung appealed to him for funds to support Ms. Teigland s work in 2007.
But he concluded that the growth partnership had made a commitment, and so he provided a $25,000 contribution.
As for Mr. Hartung and Ms. Teigland s behavior, Kathy and Jim were always at the highest professional standard, Mr. Weathers said.
To me, if somebody has committed to this they should pay what they owe and then move on. This is not worth all this, he said. Mr. Weathers said Ms. Teigland was frustrated because the partners couldn t agree on their priorities to take to Washington.
Port authority official Matt Sapara wrote that the mayor betrayed the confidentiality of reports he had received.
Those meetings there was a lot of attendance, but nobody could agree on anything, Mr. Weathers said.
The mayor s indignation at what he sees as a moral failing on the part of Mr. Hartung contrasts with some of his comments in the past when he has been critical of those who judge other people s private behavior.
In May, 1997, while addressing an audience of Toledo boosters, Mr. Finkbeiner described Perrysburg, where he once lived, as Peyton Place, an apparent reference to the 1960s tale about sex in small towns. The mayor later apologized for the remarks.
And in July, 2007, in the midst of a dispute over claims that a Democratic Party golf course fund-raiser had included strippers, Mr. Finkbeiner suggested critics of the event were being moralistic.
Sometimes the finger-pointers turn out to be slightly less goody-two-shoes than they made themselves out to be, Mr. Finkbeiner said. Politicians ought to be careful because we live in a fishbowl.
He s not the king
Two businessmen who have been involved in discussions with the city and the port authority concerning the possible development of one or more intermodal terminals in Toledo facilities where freight is transferred from one mode of transportation to another, typically in shipping containers offered an alternative scenario for the timing of Mr. Finkbeiner s criticism of the port authority president.
The mayor increasingly is being shoved to the sidelines of economic-development discussions, developers Mr. McMahon and David Hall said.
City Councilman Mike Collins thinks the allegations arose after a clash over intermodal transportation.
Most recently, they said, Mr. Finkbeiner was not invited on a July 1 port authority trip to Nova Scotia to meet with business leaders there who are developing a deepwater port that could team up with Toledo s port or others on the Great Lakes to handle containerized freight traveling between the midwestern United States and overseas ports.
Mr. Finkbeiner is lashing out because he s not the king, Mr. McMahon said.
Mr. Hall, a Streetsboro, Ohio-based developer who has been involved in several proposals to build new freight-handling facilities in the Toledo area, said there often are disagreements between government and the private sector over development projects, but Toledo s mayor introduces what Mr. Hall calls the the wacko factor.
Matt Sapara, the port authority s economic development director, offered a similar assessment in a memo he sent to Mr. Hartung after Mr. Finkbeiner complained last month that he wasn t receiving timely updates about progress on a proposed coke works on the Oregon-Toledo city line.
Mr. Sapara wrote that Mr. Finkbeiner betrayed the confidentiality of candid reports he had received, making the projects more complicated.
The project sponsors have related to me several very uncomfortable and heated discussions with the mayor s office, Mr. Sapara wrote. Due to these actions, I have been instructed by the project sponsors to not share detailed information with the city of Toledo.
A widening rift
Mr. Hartung said last week he was mystified by the widening rift between the mayor and him.
I wish I knew, Mr. Hartung said. Last time I left Carty, it was very collegial. I have no idea of any motive.
City Councilman Mike Collins said he thought the allegations arose after Mr. Finkbeiner clashed with Mr. Hartung about the development of intermodal transportation in Toledo.
Mr. Hartung and Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, were part of the nine-member delegation to Nova Scotia that U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) led but Mr. Finkbeiner was not a part of.
He didn t have any role in it, Mr. Collins said. He would find that patently offensive.
Carla Firestone, the port authority s current communications director, said Mr. Hartung had given a presentation about the Nova Scotia project to a Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting that Mr. Finkbeiner attended, during which he mentioned the upcoming trip. The mayor would have been invited on the trip had he expressed any interest at that time, the spokesman said.
It wasn t a purposeful thing; it just seemed like there was no interest there, Ms. Firestone said.
A different route
Mr. Finkbeiner is a supporter of intermodal transport in the region, but he has often taken a route different from that of Mr. Hartung and the port authority, setting up his own committee to investigate the issue.
He also has blasted Mr. McMahon s preference for developing such a facility on land near Toledo Express Airport, which the port authority owns.
Mr. Hartung confirmed that the mayor had excluded Mr. McMahon from a meeting last year during which the intermodal concept was discussed among city and port authority leaders.
I m not sure to what extent the mayor feels Brian is a credible resource, the port president said.
According to an aide, Elizabeth Phillips, Mr. Finkbeiner refused The Blade s request for an interview Friday.
Instead, he issued a statement saying that he is concerned that a vital public institution is being damaged in its functioning and its public image by a lack of leadership, candor, and integrity. The only way to restore those values is to confront the current problems head on, to find out what happened, find what needs to be done to repair the damage, and then to do those things. The city can accept nothing less.
Mr. Hartung and Mr. Finkbeiner two of the most important figures in this region s economic development have a history of butting heads.
Mr. Hartung s name has been floated as a possible opponent for Mr. Finkbeiner in the upcoming election, although Mr. Hartung said he has no interest in running for office.
In October, 2007, Mr. Finkbeiner announced he would be pulling out of the Lucas County Improvement Corp., a county economic development agency that Mr. Hartung has supported.
But some officials noted that Mr. Hartung and Mr. Finkbeiner have worked together on some projects.
They ve cooperated and disagreed on projects, Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said, citing the Marina District project as an area where the city and the port authority have worked well together.
Many Toledo City Council members felt the controversy could hurt the region s job-creation efforts.
It is not the mayor s place to point fingers and shout out accusations on anybody. He has a history of doing that, and he continues to do it, Councilman Michael Ashford said. This is the wrong message to economic developers, especially in this region.
Mr. McMahon said he too is worried that the conflict will torpedo ongoing economic development efforts,like the Nova Scotia project.
They could just say, We re not going to step in this mess, Mr. McMahon said.
It doesn t help. It doesn t show cohesive direction for the community, Mr. Carroll, the port directors chairman, said of the ongoing strife.
Blade staff writers Tom Troy and Alex M. Parker contributed to this report.
Contact David Patch at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6094.