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Published: 8/8/2008

Blade files suit for Hartung investigation records

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
James Hartung who was fired on Aug. 1, after 14 years as president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. James Hartung who was fired on Aug. 1, after 14 years as president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
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The Blade filed suit on Friday against the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority for not releasing the report detailing the recent firing of former Port Board President James Hartung.

The board of directors, in a 13-0 decision, axed Mr. Hartung on Aug. 1., after 14 years as port president. The firing followed an internal investigation of Mr. Hartung s hiring of a lobbyist, Kathy Teigland, with whom he was accused of having an affair.

Since Mr. Hartung s firing, port authority officials have refused to reveal any specifics of the investigation, citing attorney-client privilege.

Within hours after Mr. Hartung s dismissal, The Blade filed a public-record request with the port authority for access to inspect the final report prepared by Spengler Nathanson PLL, a Toledo law firm that conducted the agency s investigation.

Spengler Nathanson and the port director refused The Blade s request last week, and on Friday the port also said they would not release or make the report available. Again on Friday, the port board cited attorney-client privilege.

So The Blade filed suit on Friday afternoon in the Ohio Supreme Court under Ohio s Public Records Act. The suit was filed after the port board said at 3:45 p.m. it would reject The Blade's request for the records.

A writ of mandamus in this case commanding that the demanded records be available for public inspection in copying will undoubtedly serve the public interest and create a significant public benefit. A highly paid public employee, Mr. Hartung, has been summarily discharged from his public office, without explanation, The Blade lawsuit stated.

About 4 p.m. on Friday, following a two-hour executive session, Port Chairman William Carroll read from a prepared statement regarding Mr Hartung s firing. The statement said Mr. Hartung pursued an inappropriate relationship with a vendor for approximately six years.

While pursuing the relationship, the president assumed responsibility for administration of the vendor s contract, approved her contract extensions, approved her compensation increases, and approved her expense reports, some of which lacked appropriate backup documentation, Mr. Carroll said.

Mr. Carroll went on to say that "there are a variety of reasons that led the individual members of the board to terminate Mr. Hatung's employment for cause."

"The Port Authority has always insisted that its employees behave with the highest ethical and professional standards. As Chairman, I consider assuring such behavior to be among my most important roles. A Port Authority stated policy requires its employees to conduct themselves appropriately both in the office and away."

According to the statement, those actions conflicted with port authority policies and led to an appearance of impropriety.

"The Port Authority Board has lost confidence in Mr. Hartung's ability to lead the organization and in his ability to exercise sound judgment and oversight in the administration of its affairs," the statement said.

Mr. Carroll said he received notice on Friday that Mr. Hartung had requested to arbitrate the firing. For that reason, Mr. Carroll said, the port would not release the records, claiming it was an "attorney-client privilege."



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