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Published: Friday, 7/27/2007

Councilmen defend praise for candidate

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ed Cichy is in the middle of a squabble by council members. Ed Cichy is in the middle of a squabble by council members.
THE BLADE/LORI KING Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Toledo councilmen Joe McNamara and Mike Craig yesterday rebuffed accusations from council President Rob Ludeman that they violated council ethics rules by bringing up the name of a political candidate during Tuesday's meeting.

Mr. Ludeman alleged in an internal memo Wednesday that mentioning District 2 candidate Ed Cichy amounted to political campaigning. He said he was referring his complaint to city Law Director John Madigan.

Mr. McNamara said their citation of Mr. Cichy was appropriate and said they hadn't violated the charter or a city ethics code. "[Mr. Madigan] has reviewed Mr. Ludeman's complaint and found it baseless," Mr. McNamara said. "This is political grandstanding of the worst kind."

He said Mr. Ludeman was "lashing out" because of his defeat over the balanced budget charter amendment issue Tuesday. Council voted 8-4 to put a proposal before voters to require the budget the mayor sends to council each November be balanced.

Mr. Madigan was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Brian Schwartz, spokesman for Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, said Mr. Madigan has not issued a formal finding on the matter, but would do so by Monday.

Councilman Frank Szollosi said he was with Mr. McNamara when they bumped into Mr. Madigan in Government Center on Wednesday. "Madigan shook his head no, and said this is meritless," Mr. Szollosi said.

Mr. Ludeman alleged that Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig violated an "obvious" prohibition on political campaigning in the city charter. "Last night's meeting went beyond the bounds of civility and, in the case of two council members, trampled on the very city charter that was the main issue of the evening," Mr. Ludeman said in the memo Wednesday.

It was not clear how either the charter or the city ethics policy applied. Council is not covered by the city employees ethics policy. And Charter Section 178 cited by Mr. Ludeman applies to employees "in the administrative service."

The city employees ethics policy says no city employee may campaign or raise money for a candidate while on duty or in the building.

Ironically, Mr. Ludeman was among those who successfully defeated a proposal by Mr. Szollosi to expand the city employee ethics policy to include council members.

Mr. Ludeman said he was ashamed at the tenor of the debate on the balanced budget amendment, and that it was conducted early in the meeting, before spectators who normally would leave after various honorary events were dispensed with.

Among the spectators Tuesday were military reserve members, a clergyman's family, visiting foreign law students, and a lone Boy Scout.

"It was very embarrassing to have some of those people here to see how dysfunctional some of the members of the City Council are," Mr. Ludeman said.

Mr. McNamara said Mr. Ludeman showed a "failure of leadership" and tried to keep the balanced budget charter amendment buried in committee.

He said it was Mr. Cichy's e-mail that sparked the surprise move in council Tuesday to vote on the balanced budget charter amendment rather than wait for the input of the charter review committee.

Mr. McNamara has derided the legitimacy of the charter review committee because it held allegedly illegal meetings and is headed by John Irish, who recently was forced to resign as chairman of the Lucas County Democratic Party over the appearance of a stripper at a party event.

Mr. Cichy, a Democrat, is one of 10 candidates running in District 2, now represented by Mr. Ludeman, a Republican, who is not allowed by the city's term limits law to run for re-election.

Mr. Craig read into the record Mr. Cichy's e-mail calling for passage of the balanced budget amendment.

Mr. McNamara complimented Mr. Cichy's position on the balanced budget issue during his personal remarks near the end of the council meeting.

Mr. McNamara and Mr. Craig said they were within their rights to express their views. "Ed Cichy is showing more leadership than Rob Ludeman by trying to push the balanced budget amendment through," Mr. McNamara said.

If voters approve it in November, the amendment would add the word "balanced" to the requirement that the mayor submit a budget proposal to council by Nov. 15 for the following budget year.

Mr. Ludeman opposed the amendment, saying it wasn't ready for a vote because the charter review committee hadn't been empaneled to comment on it.

One of council's votes Tuesday was to appoint seven new members to the committee in hopes of getting a report in time for council's next meeting Aug. 7.

Mr. Cichy also weighed in yesterday, saying Mr. Ludeman "was making baseless accusations against Democrats who displayed the courage he lacked."

Mayor Finkbeiner in November sent council a proposed budget with $10.6 million more in expenditures than revenues.

The mayor claims he involved council in the effort to hammer out a balanced budget through meetings of the budget task force.

But the five members of council who often oppose the mayor claim that the administration kept them in the dark about key budget details.

"The administration held all kinds of alternatives from us," Councilman Michael Ashford said during Tuesday's debate.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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