The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority's investigation of lobbying expenses involving President James Hartung should be completed within a week, the chairman of the agency's board of directors said yesterday after a 90-minute closed-door meeting with attorneys conducting the inquiry.
In the meantime, Chairman William Carroll said, Mr. Hartung remains the port authority's president. He also described a separate investigation that the city of Toledo has launched into the matter as "redundant" and called the Finkbeiner administration's recent request for port authority records "onerous."
Mr. Carroll said a special port board meeting will be held in a week to discuss the port's inquiry and "review the findings." He said he expects the investigation "will conclude at that point."
Mr. Hartung was not present at the port board's executive-session discussion with two attorneys from the Toledo law firm of Spengler Nathanson.
On July 11, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner accused the port president of steering lobbying funds to Kathy Teigland, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio) who had been hired as a lobbyist for a consortium of Lucas County governments, colleges, and economic development agencies.
Mr. Finkbeiner alleged that Mr. Hartung, who is married, was having an affair with Ms. Teigland at the time the port authority recommended her lobbying firm to the Northwest Ohio Legislative Consortium.
He said he learned of the alleged affair from "recognized persons in our community."
The mayor then demanded an "independent investigation" of Mr. Hartung's conduct and other problems at the port authority. After Mr. Carroll declared that bringing Spengler Nathanson in to fill the investigative role was sufficient, the Finkbeiner administration announced it would conduct its own inquiry. The city "must conduct its own fact-gathering of port activities to ensure that the truth is not hidden, avoided, distorted or clouded," Adam Loukx, the city's acting law director, said in a written statement early this week.
The city and the port authority each have filed public-records requests from the other. City officials said yesterday afternoon they had yet to receive anything in response to their three-page, 16-item list of documents.
Mr. Carroll said Tuesday the city's request was accompanied by a small number of city records in response to his public-records request, made last Friday.
He challenged the mayor's assertion that Spengler Nathanson, which has handled the port authority's outside legal work for years, is insufficiently independent to do a thorough job.
"We wouldn't conduct [the investigation] if it weren't independent, and Spengler Nathanson wouldn't do it if it weren't independent," Mr. Carroll said.
As to when the port authority might produce all of the records the city requested, he said, "I have no time estimate. There's only so many hours in the day and only so many people that we have."
Mr. Finkbeiner yesterday said the port authority would not be allowed to "get away with" investigating itself.
"The bottom line is simple," the mayor said. "The port authority is a public organization, just like the city of Toledo. They should have no right to investigate themselves."
He said the agency needs to be investigated by someone "not on their payroll," like Spengler Nathanson.
A previous investigation conducted by the port authority's law firm was "buried" and not released to the public, the mayor said. He declined to specify who that investigation centered on.
The mayor said the seriousness of the current allegations require an independent investigation, with no prior connection to the port and the results must be available to the public.
In his statement released Tuesday, 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 longtime counsel."
In that case, he was referring to the situation involving James Mettler, who resigned in January as the port authority's vice president for new project development after receiving a $40,000 buyout and six months' health-insurance coverage.
"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.
The city wants documents from up to five years ago regarding Poggemeyer Design Group's work associated with the Marine Passenger Terminal in East Toledo. It also requested documents regarding work done by Toledo-based CommunicA Inc., on a 2004 port levy, and any documents related to funding that levy.
The mayor did not say yesterday what he intended to do with the results of the city's inquiry.
Staff writer Ignazio Messina contributed to this report.
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