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Published: Wednesday, 10/6/2004

Finkbeiner says Skiadas deserved a stern lecture

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The profanity he regrets, but former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday stood by this tongue-lashing four years ago of restaurateur John Skiadas - a confrontation Mr. Skiadas contends led to health problems.

Mr. Skiadas, the former mayor said, "needed a stern lecture that day."

"If I dropped some of the cusswords out of there, it would have been better served," Mr. Finkbeiner said during the sixth day of civil trial in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against Mr. Finkbeiner and the city of Toledo.

But he said before the July 14, 2000, meeting with Mr. Skiadas, he received reports from city staff about the restaurateur's "arrogant, indifferent, and I'm not listening-to-you attitude."

"I was not going down there to listen to a litany of excuse-making when we were a month and a half behind schedule," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Mr. Skiadas, the owner of Pepe's Mexican Restaurant and Cantina on West Sylvania Avenue, was trying to open another Pepe's in the then-fledgling Erie Street Market.

Mr. Finkbeiner, in two days of testimony, said his staff and city inspectors were ignored repeatedly or disrespected by Mr. Skiadas, who the mayor said lacked the experience necessary to get such a project up and running.

But John Potts, Mr. Skiadas' attorney, has suggested that the delays instead were caused by unreasonable and unfair demands of city inspectors and work crews. Additionally, the city wouldn't give Mr. Skiadas a key to the market so that crews could work after hours.

On July 14, Mr. Finkbeiner went to speak to Mr. Skiadas. The restaurateur said the former mayor cursed at him, struck him repeatedly on the chest with a fist, poked him on the head and chest with a finger, and grabbed Mr. Skiadas' head and shook it in both hands.

Mr. Finkbeiner admitted he yelled at Mr. Skiadas and wagged a finger at him. He denied striking him.

Mr. Skiadas went to the hospital hours after the confrontation, and later underwent medical procedures that included a heart catheterization and angioplasty. He and his wife, Georgette, are seeking in excess of $25,000 for unspecified damages from the former mayor and the city.

"Would you do it the same way again," Mr. Potts asked Mr. Finkbeiner.

"I would not cuss as much," he said. "I'm guessing my voice would be decibels above where it is now. I would wag my finger and [say to Mr. Skiadas] 'Stop the roadblocks.' "

Like the day before, yesterday's testimony was tense, with Mr. Potts complaining that he was trying to elicit information from Mr. Finkbeiner, but instead was getting "campaign speeches."

"We're after the truth, and you don't want to listen to the truth," Mr. Finkbeiner argued. Mr. Potts shot back: "I want an answer to my questions."

Judge Charles Wittenberg, who is deciding the case, slammed his gavel.

"Stop that, both of you," he said, ordering a recess.

Later, several Skiadas friends and a daughter took the stand. Each testified that Mr. Skiadas, whom they said was an outgoing, friendly business owner before the incident, lost his zest for life and business.

"It's like he has no spirit," said daughter Maria Skiadas, who said her father was crying and "white as a sheet" at the hospital after the confrontation.

She said the change has been difficult for her, in part, because she now runs much of the business, which takes time away from her two children.

"It's a little rough. He's totally different," she said, adding later: "I get angry that he's not there and I need him."

Upon on cross-examination, the city's attorney Andy Ayers noted that Ms. Skiadas told The Blade the day of the confrontation that the family had obtained an attorney. Ms. Skiadas questioned The Blade report, but then conceded she may have made the comments.

"Maybe I did say that. At the time, I was extremely angry," she said. "I don't believe anyone realizes how bad this was."

Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Contact Robin Erb at:

robinerb@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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