Despite having driven yet another top city official out of his administration, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said yesterday he is a far more controlled and thoughtful person than he was in his first go-round as mayor.
"I have been a much, much more controlled, reasonable, thoughtful man, who has worked very hard, incidentally, to cuss a whole lot less than I did the eight years before, and I have succeeded at both," Mr. Finkbeiner said.
"I don't cuss day in and day out. I don't cuss more than some people who work for the city of Toledo - might have the first years, but I don't now," the mayor said. "When I want to make a point and decorate it I don't even put the Lord's name, which I was guilty of doing in the past. I'll say 'damn it' or something of that nature."
Patsy Scott, Toledo's information technology director until Thursday when she quit and then was fired by Mr. Finkbeiner, told The Blade she decided she had to leave the administration after the mayor yelled at her and an assistant in front of numerous city officials.
Mrs. Scott walked out of the mayor's weekly staff meeting after what she said was an "inexcusable" verbal attack on her and her Wi-Fi co-leader Todd Davies, the commissioner of development, for the pace of progress on the wireless Internet effort.
"He was telling us how worthless we were and how we were failing miserably with this, and actually we're not," Mrs. Scott said, although she said she could not recall Mr. Finkbeiner's exact words.
Yesterday, the mayor wished Mrs. Scott good luck and denied subjecting her to verbal abuse. But he said he won't let the blowup with Mrs. Scott stop his effort to establish a citywide municipal wireless Internet program.
Mrs. Scott was co-leader of a Wi-Fi project until her abrupt departure on Thursday.
The administration is set to brief City Council on Monday about a proposed agreement with MetroFi of California to establish citywide WiFi, which would require a guarantee of $2.16 million in revenue from the city over five years.
Mrs. Scott claimed the breaking point in the staff meeting was when the mayor told her to threaten the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library's operating levy to get library Director Clyde Scoles to endorse the mayor's Wi-FI project.
Mr. Finkbeiner denied making any reference to the library's levy, and denied targeting Mrs. Scott personally or using any abusive language, other than the term "peanut general."
"If you ask me what a peanut general is, I couldn't tell you," the mayor said.
"I guess it isn't a full-blown general leading his troop into war and that was my strong characterization of the leadership or lack thereof that I was getting [Thursday]."
He said he believes Mrs. Scott had been planning her retirement for some weeks and saw Thursday's meeting as an opportunity to get out of a project she found too challenging.
He said it was Mrs. Scott who said that The Blade's editorial pages would oppose the levies of any institutions that signed up with the MetroFi deal, a worry that Mr. Finkbeiner said 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.
In defending his demeanor, Mr. Finkbeiner said his animated style motivates his staffers and city employees and demonstrates his passion for the city.
"The day I lose that spark is the day you get a lousy mayor," Mr. Finkbeiner told reporters at a news conference today.
Mrs. Scott submitted a letter of retirement after walking out of the meeting about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. But later in the afternoon, her retirement letter was rejected and she was fired for insubordination for leaving the meeting.
Mrs. Scott, a former vice president for academic affairs at the University of Toledo, established the city's information technology department in 2004, and has been at the center of efforts to upgrade the city's computerized systems.
Two city councilmen said they were disturbed by her forced departure.
Betty Shultz, who chairs the IT committee, said she was "numb."
"I'm very upset," said Mrs. Shultz, who recruited Mrs. Scott for the position.
"She has brought the city further in two years under her leadership than anyone else has in 13 to 14 years."
She said the mayor won't be able to afford to pay consultants with the same expertise as Mrs. Scott.
Councilman Frank Szollosi said the mayor needs to put his Wi-Fi project "on ice."
"He needs a cooling-off period," Mr. Szollosi said.
Mr. Szollosi said Mr. Finkbeiner deserves credit for raising the issue of citywide wireless.
But he said there are too many problems, including extensive availability of wireless hot spots in the city and the fact that the Federal Communications Commission is to revise the Wi-Fi standards within the next year.
"I don't think Joe and Joan Taxpayer are confident that the mayor, who just fired his IT director, has his game together to run the Internet in the city of Toledo," Mr. Szollosi said.
Mrs. Scott said Mr. Finkbeiner lambasted her and Mr. Davies three times during the weekly staff meeting.
The blowup occurred just four days before a crucial City Council meeting where the mayor's wireless Internet initiative is set to get a public review. Mrs. Scott was co-leader in charge of that project.
Mr. Finkbeiner was angry that Mrs. Scott and Mr. Davies had not persuaded enough community leaders to attend Monday's meeting in support of the Wi-Fi plan.
The mayor, Mrs. Scott, and Mr. Davies together in January unveiled the goal of establishing free citywide wireless Internet access.
Exactly who was the stronger advocate was in dispute yesterday, with Mrs. Scott and Mr. Finkbeiner each claiming the other was the more enthusiastic.
The mayor said he forwarded a magazine article about Philadelphia's wireless Internet program to Mrs. Scott, but that it was she who investigated it and sold him and his top staff on the project.
Mrs. Scott said it was Mr. Finkbeiner who was determined to have municipal Wi-Fi and who set the program on a fast track. She said the pace was too fast, but that it was coming together, as the mayor demanded.
Mrs. Scott said the various funding sources needed to finance the project are in files in her office and on her office computer, which she was expecting to assemble into a finished product yesterday.
She questioned whether anybody else in Government Center would have the ability to put together a package for the Wi-Fi presentation Monday.
Mrs. Scott said she's still willing to finish the project, as a consultant.
"That was a good project and I'm sorry that I didn't have an opportunity to see that to completion, and if they want to pay me I would do it, but I would need my computer and I would need the stuff in my office," she said.
Mrs. Scott, who has a doctorate in engineering, taught for 17 years at the University of Toledo, before serving the university as an assistant vice president for academic affairs and as IT director.
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