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Published: Thursday, 7/31/2008

Port board to review status of Hartung inquiry

Hartung Hartung

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority's board of directors will meet in a special session today to discuss the status of an investigation of agency President James Hartung's hiring of a lobbyist with whom he reportedly had an affair.

Whether the inquiry being conducted by the local law firm Spengler Nathanson will conclude with today's discussion remains to be determined.

While William Carroll, chairman of the port board, said a week ago he expected the meeting today to yield a final report, he was noncommittal yesterday.

"I don't know," he said. "I won't know until we're done."

Today's meeting at 1 p.m. in a fourth-floor conference room at the National City Bank building, 405 Madison Ave., is likely to start with a closed-door "executive session" discussion, "and then we'll come out of that and talk about it," Mr. Carroll said.

The port authority is investigating Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's July 11 accusation that Mr. Hartung steered lobbying funds to Kathy Teigland, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio) who was hired as a lobbyist for a consortium of Lucas County governments, colleges, and economic development agencies.

Mr. Finkbeiner also accused Mr. Hartung, who is married, of having an affair with Ms. Teigland at the same time the port authority recommended her lobbying firm to the Northwest Ohio Legislative Consortium.

The mayor said he learned of the purported affair from "recognized persons in our community."

Spengler Nathanson has been the port authority's "outside counsel" on numerous matters, including a review earlier this year of the agency's handling of a separation agreement with James Mettler, the vice president for new project development who resigned in January and received a $40,000 buyout plus six months' health coverage.

Mayor Finkbeiner has declared Spengler Nathanson too cozy with the port authority to be able to conduct a disinterested inquiry and has directed the city to conduct its own investigation.

Carla Firestone, a port authority spokesman, said yesterday that the port authority had fulfilled more than half of a public records request the city filed with her agency on July 21.

The port authority turned over 820 pages of documents to the city on Friday and 523 on Monday, she said, and notified city officials yesterday that another 1,150 pages were ready for their review.

Documents already turned over include copies of receipts Ms. Teigland submitted for expenses incurred lobbying on behalf of the consortium.

Notable among those was a $1,377.59 food-and-beverage bill from a Washington restaurant that included a $275 gratuity. No further detail of that bill, or the occasion for it, was provided.

Along with discussion concerning Mr. Hartung's conduct, the port board's agenda today includes consideration of placing a renewal or replacement of the agency's Lucas County property tax levy on the Nov. 4 election ballot.

The port authority collects a 0.4-mill tax on county real estate to pay for capital acquisitions and its neighborhood-redevelopment grant program. The levy, which generates about $2.2 million annually, is due to expire at the end of 2009.

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