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Published: Wednesday, 6/28/2006

Smith out, Navarre in as Toledo police chief; shuffle triggered by blowup with mayor


A confrontation yesterday between Toledo police Chief Jack Smith and Mayor Carty Finkbeiner led to the chief s resignation and the mayor selecting the former chief as his permanent replacement.

The heated discussion that led Chief Smith to resign his position and return to the rank of captain occurred in the mayor s office during a morning meeting about the city s gang situation.

Hours later, former Chief Mike Navarre whom Mr. Finkbeiner replaced six months ago accepted the top police job effective immediately.

When [Chief of Staff Bob] Reinbolt called me and asked me if I would be interested, without hesitation, I said, Yes, said Chief Navarre, 50, who will be paid about $92,000.

Captain Smith, a 33-year veteran, said his decision was not easy, especially when he expected to serve as chief for two years. However, he said, he was treated in a way I will not accept.

To use his words, he is the big bull in the pasture. If he decides he wants to be the only bull in the pasture, I ll find another pasture, the 58-year-old captain said of Mr. Finkbeiner.

The captain said he can tolerate criticism, but, I will not tolerate abuse. He said he is not the only administrator in the Finkbeiner administration who is unhappy with the way they re being treated.

[Mr. Finkbeiner] is not a coach. He is not a cheerleader. He s a senior executive of a major city, and he needs to act like that, he said.

Captain Smith said the confrontation was very close to being physical and that an administrator stepped in between him and the mayor. Mr. Finkbeiner denied the situation escalated to that point, but said both men stood from their chairs.

If anybody here thinks this 67-year-old man is going to take on a stronger, younger, ex-Marine with a revolver on his hip, you re wrong, the mayor said during a news conference.

Saying he was  treated in a way I will not accept,  Jack Smith resigned yesterday as chief and returned to the rank of captain.
Saying he was treated in a way I will not accept, Jack Smith resigned yesterday as chief and returned to the rank of captain.

Mr. Finkbeiner said the confrontation focused on a gang activity report, which he thought was too general. He wanted a more focused report on where gang activity was occurring.

The mayor also disagreed with the former chief when he said there was no more crime in the city s 4th Ward, which includes the Lagrange area, than 10 or 15 years ago.

The most important thing I m concerned about is that every citizen of the city understands that ultimately the buck stops on my desk, Mr. Finkbeiner said. I can t be guided by what people think of me. I have to be guided by what will move the city forward.

Captain Smith said this was not the first run-in he s had with the mayor, but it was the first time it got that heated.

Mr. Finkbeiner said it was the only single difference of opinion with Jack Smith I ve had in six months, admitting that both men are bull-headed individuals and, at times, we can both be bulls in a china shop.

Sgt. Richard Murphy, the police department s public information officer, also said yesterday he will retire after 33 years on the force.

Dan Wagner, vice president of the Toledo Police Patrolman s Association, said he was a little surprised by Captain Smith s resignation and totally shocked by the mayor s decision to rehire Chief Navarre. It s amazing how a man that just a few months ago wasn t capable of doing the job is now back as chief of police, he said, adding that the union has always had a good working relationship with Mike.

When Carty came in the office, he had his mindset on replacing Mike Navarre, Mr. Wagner added. We weren t for it. We didn t push to get Mike removed. But when you have the chief executive officer coming in saying he s going to remove the chief, we had a duty to present a name.

Terry Stewart, president of the Toledo Police Command Officers Association, said he was shocked to hear of the resignation and said it s nothing but a shame.

I think the mayor should leave the policing to the professionals. As far as I know, the mayor s never been a police officer, Mr. Stewart said. If the mayor would keep his nose out of things, I don t think this would have happened.

Union leaders said they welcome Chief Navarre back and will work with him as they did in the past.

Mr. Stewart said he was surprised Chief Navarre returned to his former job after being treated the way he was before being demoted. In December, Mr. Finkbeiner then mayor-elect announced he would promote Captain Smith to chief. Chief Navarre objected, saying his forced removal would violate the city charter. An accord was reached, avoiding litigation.

Chief Navarre became the department s assistant chief.

Yesterday, Chief Navarre said he thought the split was amicable and said he never really left the Finkbeiner team even though he served in a different assignment the last six months.

City Council members were disappointed by Captain Smith s resignation, but few were surprised. Citing the mayor s record of confrontations with employees Marti Felker resigned as police chief in 1994 during Mr. Finkbeiner s first stint in office most council members expressed concern the city was losing an experienced leader.

But news that Chief Navarre was returning helped curb concerns that one of the city s most important positions would be left unmanned.

I worked with Navarre just about the whole time I ve been on council. I had a very good working relationship with him, said Councilman Wilma Brown, chairman of the public safety committee.

Mike is a great guy. He was a good choice, council President Rob Ludeman said.

Councilman Frank Szollosi said he understood the position Captain Smith found himself in yesterday because he, too, had once worked for the mayor and left because I couldn t work for the guy either.

I know how committed Captain Smith is to the citizens of Toledo. The gravity of the decision shouldn t be made light of. It speaks to something about the character of the mayor. He can t keep good people close to him, Mr. Szollosi said.

Councilman Michael Ashford said the mayor s management style is well-known and should have been apparent to those who agreed to work for him.

I m disappointed, however, not surprised, but disappointed that they have let personalities cloud their overall mission to provide safety for children, families, and citizens in the city of Toledo, Mr. Ashford said.

Contact Christina Hall at chall@theblade.com or 419-724-6007.

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