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Published: Friday, 6/22/2007

Toledo Wi-Fi chief quits, then is fired in dispute with mayor

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The leader of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s wireless Internet initiative walked out of the weekly staff meeting yesterday after what she claimed was verbal abuse by the mayor, and then several hours later was told she was fired.

Patsy Scott, director of Toledo s Department of Information Services, said the mayor criticized her and Todd Davies, the commissioner of development, for what he felt was their failure to line up enough community support for an upcoming crucial presentation to city council on the proposed Wi-Fi contract with MetroFi of Mountainview, Calif.

Ms. Scott said the mayor told her to threaten the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library s levy if library Director Clyde Scoles refused to endorse the Wi-Fi project at a meeting at 10 a.m. Monday in council chambers.

Mr. Finkbeiner denied using abusive language, other than the term peanut general, and denied making any suggestions regarding the library s levy.

The mayor s behavior is inexcusable. I couldn t take it anymore, Ms. Scott said.

She left the meeting, on the 22nd floor of Government Center, about 10:30 a.m. and went to her office on the third floor where she wrote a letter of retirement, which she gave to the mayor s secretary a few minutes later.

Four hours later, she said she was called into the office of her immediate supervisor, David Moebius, assistant chief of staff, and handed a letter of dismissal.

Mr. Finkbeiner admitted that he yelled at Ms. Scott, but did not scream.

He flatly denied suggesting any retaliation against the library s levy.

That is a plain, absolute falsehood, Mr. Finkbeiner said. I was not very happy. Since we made the [Wi-Fi] announcement, there have been a number of balls dropped and too few people contacted.

I said you re being peanut generals. If you re the leader, your job is to get your troops walking behind you, Mr. Finkbeiner said.

Ms. Scott, 62, who was paid $86,000, was appointed by former Mayor Jack Ford to be the first information services director and was retained when Mr. Finkbeiner took office in January, 2006.

She said she could not recall the mayor s exact words, but felt she was being labeled worthless and a failure.

She said Mr. Finkbeiner s ire boiled over when she told him that Mr. Scoles would not come to the council meeting.

When he told her that as a department director she s supposed to advocate forcefully for her programs, she told the mayor, I m a technician, not a politician.

After enduring what she said was the third round of abuse in the same meeting, Ms. Scott said she left the room, saying, I ll see you later, to which the mayor responded, you won t see me at all. Have a nice career, she recalled.

The library system has two 1-mill operating levies, generating about $13 million, that will expire at the end of this year.

The mayor s spokesman, Brian Schwartz, said he attended the meeting and did not hear a threat to any levies.

He said the mayor did not lose his temper.

Mr. Davies also indicated he did not hear about a threat to the library s levy.

He was trying to get us moving a little bit. That s what he does, Mr. Davies said.

Mr. Scoles said the library board of directors has not decided what, if anything, to put on the fall ballot.

He said he was in Washington for an American Library Association meeting yesterday and would not be in Toledo on Monday.

But he confirmed that the library was not ready to sign on to the city s Wi-Fi project with a financial commitment.

Would not commit

He said he would not commit to a five-year agreement, given the rapidly changing pace of technology.

My only concern is we just didn t seem to have enough information. I don t know what the rush is all about, Mr. Scoles said.

He said has never spoken to the mayor or Ms. Scott about Wi-Fi or the levy, and said Ms. Scott was communicating through his chief of information technology, Jeff Wale.

Mr. Finkbeiner said it was Ms. Scott who introduced the subject of property tax levies several days ago.

He said she expressed concern that institutions such as the library, Toledo Public Schools, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority feared negative editorials on their levies from The Blade if they endorsed the MetroFi project.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he told her that was ridiculous.

The Blade has not editorialized about the MetroFi project. The Blade s parent company, Block Communications Inc., also owns Buckeye CableSystem, which submitted a response to the administration s request for Wi-Fi proposals.

Buckeye s response was rejected, and recently Ms. Scott said she has attempted to persuade Buckeye executives to partner with MetroFi.

The mayor said the idea of getting a free Wi-Fi project for Toledo was Ms. Scott s idea in the first place, and that she sold him and his staff on it.

No cost pledge

The Wi-Fi proposal, unveiled in January, promised that a provider would be found who would establish citywide wireless access at no cost to taxpayers.

The tentative agreement unveiled late last month with MetroFi, and up for approval by council, requires the city to guarantee revenues of $2.16 million over five years.

Ms. Scott and Mr. Davies said they believe the contract was misunderstood by the public, and that she and Mr. Davies were prepared to show how it would be funded at council s meeting on Monday.

We had all the I s dotted and T s crossed. I m not sure it is anymore, and I m sorry about it, Ms. Scott said.

In her letter of retirement, Ms. Scott cited numerous initiatives with which she had been tasked and accomplished.

She said she already had composed the two-page retirement letter because she had been considering resigning for the last several weeks.

Her letter said she would retire effective July 13. The last paragraph referred to yesterday s events, and said, through my long career, I have earned the right to be treated as a professional. I cannot and will not accept anything less.

Ms. Scott is a former professor and administrator at the University of Toledo.

She follows in the footsteps of previous Finkbeiner appointees who have left their jobs abruptly rather than withstand the mayor s tongue-lashings.

The mayor said Valerie Robertson, commissioner of information and communication technology, would lead the department on an interim basis.

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



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