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Published: Thursday, 10/5/2006

Craig took UT tickets, then voted for gift ban

Mike Craig Mike Craig

A Toledo councilman accepted two free University of Toledo football tickets less than two weeks before voting to support a gift ban that would have prohibited accepting such tickets.

Also yesterday, council's ethics controversy surfaced as political fodder in the race for Lucas County commissioner, as Democrat Ben Konop assailed his opponent, Republican Councilman George Sarantou, for supporting the weaker ethics ban that passed.

Councilman Mike Craig accepted the tickets for the to Sept. 23 Rockets' home game, and then voted Tuesday night for an ethics policy that would have made accepting such tickets illegal.

Also attending games this year at UT President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs' invitation were council President Rob Ludeman and Mr. Sarantou, both of whom voted against the gift ban but supported a gift-disclosure policy.

Mr. Craig said yesterday the discussion of the ethics policy changed his mind about what is appropriate, even though he said he didn't think the tickets were improper. "Looking at this legislation kind of made you examine why you're getting these things, and how it looks to the public," Mr. Craig said.

Mr. Craig was one of four A-team Democrats, along with Councilmen Frank Szollosi, Ellen Grachek, and Michael Ashford, who cast the only votes Tuesday in support of Mr. Szollosi's proposed policy to ban all gifts.

After defeating Mr. Szollosi's proposal, council went on to vote 9-3 to enact a requirement that all gifts valued at more than $25 be disclosed within 30 days, and banning any gifts above $75 in value.

The debate pitted the A-team Democrats against the coalition of Republicans and B-team Democrats who control council.

Mr. Konop yesterday declared that county employees should not accept free gifts, such as football tickets.

"You should buy your tickets," Mr. Konop said. "You don't have to get a free ticket to a football game to talk to the president of the University of Toledo."

Mr. Sarantou said his attendance was one of the responsibilities of being an elected official.

"I wish I didn't have to go to so many events because I miss seeing my family," Mr. Sarantou said. "But as a public official, I have an obligation to meet leaders as well as community people."

Commissioners, like all Ohio elected officials, are covered by the state law that requires them to report any gifts worth more than $75.

Blade staff writer Joshua Boak contributed to this report.

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