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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2001

Finkbeiner considers himself for port board

BY JOE MAHR
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner may seek an additional role for himself - member of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board of directors. The action would be unprecedented and could open a legal and political can of worms.

The mayor confirmed yesterday he's interested in becoming a member of the port board, perhaps even filling the seat of Jerry Chabler, whose term expires at the end of the month.

But Mr. Finkbeiner downplayed the possibility of appointing himself. He stressed that he first will evaluate the job Mr. Chabler has done against the qualifications of three people who are interested in replacing Mr. Chabler - people that he wouldn't name. The mayor said he “anticipated” picking from those four.

Still, he said, he would not rule out recommending himself. “All options are open,” the mayor said.

The port authority is overseen by a board of 13 unpaid citizens. Seven are appointed by the mayor with city council approval, and seven are appointed by the Lucas County commissioners. The final board member is jointly appointed by the city and county.

In the nearly five decades of the agency's existence, none of the board members has been an active Toledo mayor or Lucas County commissioner. That has some people bristling at the thought of the mayor even considering the idea.

“In all honesty, it's the height of political hubris to even contemplate appointing oneself to that position,” city Councilman Gene Zmuda said. “I cannot think of another elected official who would have that thought enter his mind.”

Mr. Zmuda said he doubted that city council, which has often been at odds with the Finkbeiner administration, would confirm Mr. Finkbeiner's appointment of himself. But the mayor has supporters, including the chairman of the port board, Pat Nicholson.

“That's the kind of guy we want on the port board - guys with vision, guys with enthusiasm, guys with effort,” Mr. Nicholson said.

Sandy Isenberg, president of the county commissioners, said she would not take offense if the mayor appointed himself to the board.

“It would be unusual, but I would not be concerned about it,” she said.

Besides the political hurdle, there could be a legal one as well - although how big is unclear.

State law doesn't specifically address it. Neither do the port authority bylaws.

Barb Herring, city law director, said she doesn't believe the city charter addresses the issue.

It could come to a ruling by the state attorney general's office.

In similar cases, the attorney general has determined that it's not proper for a county commissioner or village council member to be a port authority board member.

The mayor said he hasn't researched whether it would be legal to appoint himself.

“My priorities are to evaluate Mr. Chabler's credentials and, secondly, the credentials of those who want to serve,” he said.

He said he expected to forward a recommendation to council by the end of the month.

Mr. Chabler was appointed to fill the final two years of the term of former board member Edward Shultz and has become one of the most outspoken board members.

His detractors claim he's a media grandstander who twists facts to malign his peers. His supporters claim he's a plain-talker bent on reforming an agency rife with arrogance.

The mayor said he is happy with the job Mr. Chabler has done and he gave him even odds of being reappointed.

Mr. Chabler said he wants to be reappointed, and he doesn't understand why the mayor would replace him if the mayor's happy with his performance.



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