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Published: Monday, 2/27/2006

Finkbeiner helpers land prime city hall jobs

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's political campaign ran like a small army, with dedicated volunteers from a variety of backgrounds.

And because they won the election, a lot of those people are now on the city payroll.

At least 20 people who hold jobs in the mayor's office and economic development, utilities, and public service departments came through Mr. Finkbeiner's political campaign. They account for close to $1 million in annual payroll.

Mr. Finkbeiner said they're hard workers, and they share his vision for moving the city forward.

"The 20 that we hired have met the criteria that they are hard-working, loyal, talented. Everybody's got to produce for me," he said.

Some of his critics see it as political payback on the taxpayers' dime.

"That's pretty expensive patronage," said Councilman Frank Szollosi, a fellow Democrat who supported former Mayor Jack Ford in the Nov. 8 election. "It sort of smells of spoils."

Robert Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said the mayor-to-be announced that his transition office was accepting applications, including from 82 people who held appointed jobs under Mr. Ford. Of the 82 Ford administration appointees, 29 resigned or were fired.

So far, 25 new people have been hired or promoted from the classified or civil service ranks. Mr. Reinbolt said Mr. Finkbeiner wanted some experienced people, so the government would require less of his day-to-day oversight, and an infusion of young people to spark a "youth movement."

The new faces in city hall include some 20-somethings who have been hired as "mayor's assistants" at salaries ranging from $21,278 to $28,500.

Among them is Paul Lewandowski, 23, who graduated from Miami University in May and delayed going to law school when he hooked up with the Finkbeiner campaign, for which he became a speechwriter.

"I love what I'm doing right now," Mr. Lewandowski said. He still plans to go to law school and is considering a career in politics.

"I've heard you can do both," he said.

At the other end of the payscale, between $70,000 and $92,000, are several people who already retired from city jobs and have returned. They include Mr. Reinbolt, who was the campaign chief of staff; campaign volunteers Theresa Gabriel, now city director of human resources, and Perlean Griffin, back in the job she had in Mr. Finkbeiner's first term as executive director of affirmative action, and Michael White, commissioner of transportation and engineering services, who was Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign treasurer.

Gary Daugherty, 57, who retired from private industry as an environmental engineer, liked Mr. Finkbeiner's pro-business rhetoric and offered to help him get elected. He drove his own car, jammed with campaign signs, in neighborhood after neighborhood while Mr. Finkbeiner and other volunteers knocked on doors.

He's now a manager of environmental services for the city, working on brownfield redevelopment.

"This was my dream job. I lived in Toledo in the '50, '60s; it was a great place to live. It still is a great place to live. But we've got to fix some things," he said.

Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign manager, Todd Fleming, 30, is now a financial analyst in the utilities department.

After six years in the Navy serving in Bosnia and Serbia as a linguist, he returned to get a degree in business administration at the University of Toledo, where he heard Mr. Finkbeiner speak at one of his classes. He introduced himself.

"A couple days later someone invited me to one of his Saturday meetings," Mr. Fleming said. He dropped his bid for a private-industry job and became Mr. Finkbeiner's campaign manager on Aug. 1, with no salary.

"I'm not sure what other people's intentions were. There could be some expectation that you'd be rewarded at some point, but I wasn't expecting anything," Mr. Fleming said.

Dwayne Morehead, 33, was a city utilities worker and former city recreation aide who was promoted to co-executive director of the Youth Commission after volunteering with the Finkbeiner campaign. Now he's in charge of working with central-city youth, especially those who complained about having no jobs and being harassed by police following a riot in the north end Oct. 15.

The mayor said Mr. Morehead "knows the street-smart crowd of Toledo. I doubt he was ever a gang member, but he knows who the gang members are, and I know he can work at that level."

Tina Timmons, 50, a secretary in the mayor's office on the 22nd floor, was newly laid off from a job at the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority when the campaign came to her West Toledo neighborhood.

"Carty and his crew came by door-to-door. I introduced myself. He said, 'Gee, we could use some more volunteers,' " Ms. Timmons recalled. She said she applied for a job, but didn't expect to get one. The experience so far as been "amazing" and "fluorescent."

Ken Neidert, 63, the new commissioner of fleet and facilities, was a manufacturers' representative for industrial air cleaning equipment. He invited Mr. Finkbeiner to speak at his church, Hope Lutheran, on stewardship in late March.

"The next day he called and said, "Would you like to work on the campaign?' " Mr. Neidert said. His job was to identify Toledo neighborhoods - he came up with 54 - and identify Finkbeiner supporters in each. He also stood on street corners holding Finkbeiner signs.

Councilman George Sarantou, a Republican, said he sees nothing to object to - so far - in the mayor's hiring practices.

"Last time I checked, Mayor Ford hired people who supported and worked for him, not people who supported Ray Kest," he said, referring to Mr. Ford's 2001 campaign against the then-Lucas County treasurer.

Democratic Councilman Michael Ashford said he can't believe the wholesale replacement of Ford appointees so abruptly at the start of Mr. Finkbeiner's term.

"He's got way more political appointees, and they make way more money than Jack Ford's appointees did," Mr. Ashford said.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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