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Published: Friday, 2/15/2008

Toledo mayor's profanity aired on live radio in Detroit

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The day before Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's spokesman was suspended for three weeks for allegedly using vulgar language with an off-air radio producer, the mayor himself used a profanity during a live interview broadcast.

Mr. Finkbeiner uttered the "f-word" followed by "ruckus" to describe the "few days" after his order last week to cancel a Marine Corps weekend-long urban warfare exercise in downtown Toledo and in some abandoned buildings.

The mayor spoke on The Frank Beckmann Show on WJR-760 AM in Detroit for nearly 16 minutes Tuesday. The station broadcasts at 50,000 watts, 24 hours a day, and can be heard in 38 states and half of Canada.

After listening yesterday to a recording posted online, Mr. Finkbeiner acknowledged that the word he used sounded like the profanity.

"I merged two words into one," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "Ruckus is what I was after It wasn't intentional."

Later a statement from Mr. Finkbeiner said: "The intention of the word was 'ruckus.' I started to say 'fuss' and changed to 'ruckus' and the words were merged into one."

Mr. Beckmann had just asked the mayor if the Marines controversy had damaged Toledo's image. Mr. Finkbeiner was emphatic that it had not.

Bob Reinbolt, the mayor's chief of staff, said, the mayor often speaks very passionately "like a football coach."

Mr. Reinbolt added: "I think he got tongue-tied. I don't think he meant to say a vulgar word."

Mr. Finkbeiner yesterday signed a resolution unanimously approved Tuesday by City Council that apologizes to the Grand Rapids-based Marines for the mayor's action.

Still, the mayor did not apologize for his decision.

When asked if signing the resolution signaled that the mayor was apologizing, Mr. Reinbolt said, "It means he signed the legislation."

Brian Schwartz, who has been the mayor's spokesman since June, 2006, was suspended by Mr. Reinbolt Wednesday for 15 workdays without pay for reportedly using a vulgarity while speaking off air on Monday to a producer for the same radio station.

That same day, Mr. Schwartz told Blade columnist Roberta de Boer that "It sucks to be me" when she asked him how he was doing.

Mr. Schwartz declined to comment last night.

Mr. Reinbolt said Mr. Schwartz denied using profanity with the radio producer.

"We are trying to get the tapes and that's only fair to Brian," Mr. Reinbolt said.

Mr. Schwartz was talking to a producer on Monday about the possibility of the mayor's speaking on The Frank Beckmann Show.

The mayor has been accused of using abusive language in the past.

Mr. Finkbeiner - known for his animated style to motivate his staffers and city employees - told The Blade last year that he is a far more controlled and thoughtful person than he was in his first go-round as mayor.

"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 in June, 2007. "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 former information technology director, had recently quit and then was fired by Mr. Finkbeiner after she said the mayor yelled at her and an assistant in front of numerous city officials.

Ms. Scott could not be reached for comment last night.

Former Mayor Jack Ford declined last night to comment on his experience with Mr. Finkbeiner's use of language in the past.

"I do think he'd be real smart if he would just apologize and just keep his mouth shut, don't take any more calls, [and] declare that it's over with," Mr. Ford said of the Marines controversy.

The so-called "Carty vs. Marines" controversy started Friday when 200 members of Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., arrived to drill downtown but were instead turned away on the mayor's order.

Mr. Finkbeiner has refused to apologize for canceling the training event and has defended his decision.

Marines last used downtown Toledo in 2006, when the mayor said he saw people startled by automatic weapons fire. Exercises included mock firefights, ambushes, and the firing of blank ammunition.

Mr. Finkbeiner said downtown, particularly on a weekday afternoon, was not suitable for military staging operations because as many as 14,000 people would have been departing their office buildings at the same time.

The mayor said he was unaware of the event planned in Toledo last weekend until Friday morning when he read about it in The Blade.

Toledo police knew days in advance about plans for the three-day exercise, and on Feb. 5 issued a news release to media outlets on behalf of the Marines that asked Toledoans not to be startled by the sight of camouflaged soldiers carrying rifles.

During his State of the City address Monday, Mr. Finkbeiner said he would make the decision to cancel the Marine exercise again, despite the recent backlash.

Later in the day, Mr. Finkbeiner e-mailed several Marine officers a "formal invitation" back to the city, with the exception of the "central business district."

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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