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Finkbeiner defends job for volunteer

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner last night defended his hiring of a volunteer from his 2005 political campaign with a record of drunken driving and disorderly conduct convictions.

Gary Groszewski, 50, a general utility worker being paid $22,900 a year, was hired in May after the mayor said he decided to give him a second chance.

Mr. Groszewski, who had 10 drunken driving convictions between 1983 and 1991, according to records on the Toledo Municipal Court's Web site, drives a city truck replacing or installing surface-level signs, such as no parking and stop signs, said Bill Franklin, director of the city's public service department.

Mr. Groszewski, who received a high score on a test given to applicants for city jobs, has been doing a good job, with no major infractions, Mr. Franklin said.

Mr. Groszewski's most recent arrests were for driving violations, most of which were dismissed. He pleaded no contest and was fined $78 on Nov. 4, 2005, for overtaking and passing on the right.

The year before, he was charged with drug possession and disorderly conduct. The drug charge was dismissed in December, 2004. He pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct and was fined $75.

The mayor said Mr. Groszewski, who the mayor described as a recovering alcoholic, worked hard on his campaign, and begged him for a job.

He said he has hired other people with checkered records when he was convinced they were sincere about trying to straighten out their lives. "Gary was given an opportunity and, to the best of my knowledge, he has been what he was during the campaign, a very dependable, conscientious worker," Mr. Finkbeiner said.

The mayor acknowledged he has hired a number of former campaign workers, but said all his other hires were in two categories that he described as either veterans, such as Chief of Staff Bob Reinbolt, or what he called "best and the brightest," primarily young people just out of college.

John Irish, who ran the campaign and now chairs the Lucas County Democratic Party, said Mr. Groszewski walked door to door with Mr. Finkbeiner, putting up campaign signs.

Reached last night, Mr. Groszewski spoke briefly. "I earned that job. I work hard for the city," he said. He then hung up the phone.

Because he has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration, Mr. Groszewski initially was referred to incoming police Chief Jack Smith in early 2006. But Mr. Smith, who no longer is chief, said last night that he was not comfortable with Mr. Groszewski's background check and refused to hire him.

Mr. Reinbolt said last night that he discussed the arrests with Mr. Groszewski and that he agreed he didn't belong in the police department. Mr. Reinbolt said Mr. Groszewski has a commercial driver's license and can be tested for illegal substances at any time.

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