A number of Toledo City Councilmen launched a barrage of tough questions Wednesday against members of the Finkbeiner administration's decision to spend $80,000 without their knowledge to renovate into a concert venue part of the city-owned Erie Street Market.
Councilman D. Michael Collins, who led the attack against some of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's top officials, opened the hearing on the matter with an hour of grilling questions - asking early on why the city has "gotten into the nightclub business."
Mr. Collins also called for the city to end its business association with local promoter Robert Croak, president of the Verso Group, Inc., because of his criminal history, felony conviction, and amount of money owed the Internal Revenue Service in taxes.
Croak was convicted in 2002 on one count of forgery and has been arrested for but not convicted of underage alcohol sales, according to court records. He was subpoenaed to appear before Wednesday's committee of the whole meeting, which drew about 200 spectators.
Several councilmen blasted the administration for approving $80,000 of renovation at the market for concerts and other events.
Councilman George Sarantou asked "why in the world didn't the administration pick up the phone" to let council know what was going on at the controversial city-property near downtown.
"It was lousy communication," Mr. Sarantou said.
Tom Kroma, assistant chief operating officer for the city, acknowledged that it was poor communication and that council should have been informed.
Mayor Finkbeiner justified the action because the expenses were broken into different contracts - each below $10,000, which the mayor can order without council approval.
Councilman Lindsay Webb suggested council ask voters to approve a change to the city charter and lower the threshold to $2,500.
Councilman Frank Szollosi later said a charter revision would not be the answer.
"We need a change in leadership," Mr. Szollosi said referring to the mayor.
The mayor did not attend the meeting and could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
"I accept full responsibility for the city's commitment to transform the former flea market at the Erie Street Market into a multi-purpose entertainment facility," Mr. Finkbeiner said in a statement. "After a nationally recognized recording group was committed to coming to Toledo on Aug. 2, the city worked night and day to prepare for the rededication of the hall."
Friday there was a "Metro Mixer," dubbed "First Fridays" at the market. A blues-rock duo the Black Keys performed Saturday. The city's profited $6,185 from the two events at the market - which does not take into account the cost of the renovation.
Ms. Webb said she had lost all trust in the Finkbeiner administration.
"I don't buy it that all the contracts just happened to come in under $10,000," Ms. Webb said, indicating there was a direction by the administration to make certain that happened.
Paul Ringlein, administrator of facilities for the city, told her that there was no collusion regarding the contracts.
Croak said he did not understand why there was an ongoing character assassination against him and would continue to book concerts and other events at the market.