The City of Toledo has launched its own investigation of lobbying expenses and publicized allegations of an extramarital affair involving Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority President James Hartung.
Adam Loukx, acting law director for the city, said in a written statement yesterday that the city "must conduct its own fact-gathering of port activities to ensure that the truth is not hidden, avoided, distorted or clouded."
The decision follows Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's demand last week for an independent investigation of Mr. Hartung and alleged problems at the port.
Mr. Finkbeiner on July 11 went public with an accusation he had heard from "recognized persons in our community" that Mr. Hartung had an extramarital affair with Kathy Teigland, a former administrative aide to U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio) who had been hired to serve as a lobbyist for a consortium of Lucas County governments, colleges, and economic development agencies.
The port and the city slapped each other on Friday and Monday with dueling public-records requests.
In response to a records request that William Carroll, chairman of the port authority's board of directors, sent to the city on Friday, Mr. Loukx on Monday in turn sent Mr. Carroll a three-page request for port records - including documents related not only to the lobbying matter but also regarding two senior port authority staff members who recently resigned.
The city's request covers telephone records, correspondence, contract documents, meeting minutes, and personnel files for Mr. Hartung, James Mettler, and Kelly Rivera Nye.
"The city is committed to understanding, as fully as possible, what has happened at the port authority in recent years," Mr. Loukx's statement said. "The public-record requests are part of the city's effort to look into this important question."
Mrs. Nye resigned as the port's communications director in December and Mr. Mettler resigned as its vice president for new project development in January. Mr. Mettler received a $40,000 buyout, paid in six installments, plus six months of health coverage. Port officials have kept reasons for the payout confidential.
Mr. Carroll said his request Friday for all documents in the city's possession pertaining to the Northwest Ohio Legislative Consortium arose because the outside party conducting his agency's investigation of Mr. Hartung's expenses asked for the records.
As to whether he considered the city's counterrequest on Monday to be retaliatory, Mr. Carroll said, "You'll have to ask the mayor that. He has the right to ask for these documents, and we're going to provide the information to the best of our ability."
Mayor Finkbeiner declined a request to be interviewed yesterday.
Fulfilling the city's records request is likely to consume considerable staff time, Mr. Carroll said. "We are spending an inordinate amount of time to get all these requests done," he said.
Mr. Carroll said the city will be billed the port authority's standard rate of 7 cents per page for the requested copies.
In his statement, Mr. Loukx said, "The current problems at the port authority are rooted in part in an earlier investigation of allegations of staff misconduct, which the port chose to investigate internally, using its long-time counsel."
In that case, he was referring to the situation involving Mr. Mettler.
"That investigation was conducted in secret and its results were kept secret. It's no surprise, then, that the investigation served only to stir up more allegations of misconduct and cover-up," Mr. Loukx wrote.
Mr. Loukx also said the city "attempted to deal with these matters directly with the port board" and had done nothing to publicize the communications.
"For reasons of his own, the [port board] chair, or someone associated with him, has chosen to publicize these letters in selected media," Mr. Loukx wrote.
In a July 17 letter to Mr. Carroll, Mayor Finkbeiner said private counsel would not conduct an impartial investigation.
"I have heard criticism of the most recent investigation with Jim Mettler and how the port allegedly buried the information by using outside counsel favorable to the port, therefore, all records were confidential," the mayor wrote.
Mr. Carroll responded in writing on Monday saying, "I have no reason to question the ethics or integrity of the law firm conducting the investigation."
He has declined to name the firm handling the probe for the port board.
When publicizing his demand for an investigation on July 11, Mr. Finkbeiner said Mr. Hartung had been aggressively lobbying him during 2007 and 2008 about paying a $25,000 bill from Ms. Teigland for her lobbying work.
After Mr. Finkbeiner rebuffed his efforts, saying the city couldn't afford it, Mr. Hartung started approaching the mayor's underlings about the matter.
In a terse note Oct. 16, Mr. Finkbeiner said Ms. Teigland had earned nothing. "This year we have a $10 million budget deficit, Kathy delivered nothing. I don't believe we owe Kathy a penny," the mayor wrote.
The city later paid $5,000 to the Legislative Consortium and declared the relationship terminated.
Mr. Hartung has been silent about the accusation.
Kevin Greenfield, an attorney for Mr. Hartung, has said his client was cooperating with the investigation of the alleged affair.
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