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Published: Saturday, 12/6/2008

Finkbeiner recall drive launched at meeting

BY TOM TROY AND IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

The effort to force Carty Finkbeiner out of office before the end of his term began with a meeting at the Toledo Club about two months ago.

Jim Moody, a real estate investor and Republican who yesterday said he plans to run for mayor in 2009, said he attended the meeting with about 70 others after getting an invitation from a friend in the real estate business.

Mr. Moody and others found out when they arrived that the goal of the group was to launch a recall petition against the mayor.

It was more of an informative meeting. I would say more the purpose of the meeting was that business needs to take a greater leadership role in the community, Mr. Moody said.

I m aware of this group, but I am not part of the leadership, Mr. Moody said, although he said he agrees with the effort to recall Mr. Finkbeiner.

Tom Pounds, left, Toledo Free Press publisher, and Andy Stuart, Clear Channel general manager, are identified as being among those backing the effort to recall the mayor. Tom Pounds, left, Toledo Free Press publisher, and Andy Stuart, Clear Channel general manager, are identified as being among those backing the effort to recall the mayor.
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Another participant in that meeting, Sharon Speyer, regional president of Huntington Bank, also found out the group s plan after she arrived. Ms. Speyer said she opted not to stay involved.

I didn t participate subsequently because I didn t think it was appropriate for me to do so, said Ms. Speyer, declining to detail her reasons.

John Szuch, chairman of the board of Fifth Third Bank in Toledo, said yesterday that he also was asked to participate but turned down the invitation.

Bob LaClair, [Fifth Third president and chief executive officer], and I both got e-mails about a meeting with some inkling about the purpose of it, and it seemed like a good thing to pass on and we did not attend, Mr. Szuch said. It just didn t sound like a productive project to me and to Bob.

Mr. Szuch could not recall who sent him the e-mail or when the planned meeting was and said he had deleted it.

Sylvania Township businessman Tom Schlachter, a co-founder of the Moses-Schlachter Group Inc., announced the initiative on WSPD-AM, 1370 on Thursday.

Talk show host Brian Wilson said the station would keep the public informed of the group s efforts.

Other than Mr. Schlachter, membership in the group was not well-documented yesterday, but according to a person who was at the meeting at the Toledo Club, other recall backers include Tom Pounds, publisher of the Toledo Free Press; Andy Stuart, general manager of Clear Channel radio stations in Toledo, and Sanford Lubin, editor of the Toledo Business Journal.

All three have been critical of Mayor Finkbeiner and all three were supporters of James Hartung, the fired president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

Mr. Hartung was removed from office after Mr. Finkbeiner publicly exposed an extramarital affair that Mr. Hartung had with a port authority lobbyist and called for his removal.

Port authority e-mails show that Mr. Hartung approved the agency spending tens of thousands of dollars to buy advertising in Mr. Pounds and Mr. Lubin s publications.

Mr. Stuart s WSPD 1370 AM-radio has devoted many hours of programming to bashing Mr. Finkbeiner and his initiatives in hopes of luring listeners.

Mr. Pounds, Mr. Stuart, and Mr. Lubin were unavailable or did not return calls for comment.

Also yesterday, Perrysburg real estate developer Brian McMahon, who was identified in The Blade as a member of Take Back Toledo, resigned from an intermodal committee to which he was appointed by Mr. Finkbeiner.

It s unfortunate that once again the political agendas in this community are creating hurdles for economic development such as your intermodal committee, Mr. McMahon said in an e-mailed note to James Tuschman, chairman of the intermodal committee.

I have concluded that I have an obligation to you as a personal friend and your committee to submit my resignation so that further political controversies do not impede your efforts, Mr. McMahon wrote.

Mr. McMahon did not return a telephone call from The Blade seeking comment.

Earlier this year, Mr. Finkbeiner accused Mr. McMahon of misleading some local media and fabricating the existence of a petition to extend city water lines for an intermodal facility at Toledo Express Airport.

Mr. Finkbeiner s chief of staff, Bob Reinbolt, said he was not aware until yesterday that Mr. McMahon had resigned from the intermodal committee.

If the organizers of the recall effort are successful in collecting the required 19,753 valid signatures of registered Toledo voters within a 90-day window, the recall question would go on the Sept. 15, 2009, ballot.

If successful, Mr. Finkbeiner would be removed from his $136,000-a-year job about three months before his term is to end, with Toledo City Council President Mark Sobczak becoming mayor.

There would be no cost to put the recall election on the September ballot so long as there are more than two candidates for mayor or more than 12 candidates for the at-large council seats, council Clerk Jerry Dendinger said.

Mr. Dendinger also said that a successful recall would not prohibit Mr. Finkbeiner, if he chooses to seek re-election, from being elected in November for a fourth term and reclaiming the office in January.

State Fire Marshal Mike Bell, former Toledo fire chief and a possible candidate for mayor, said yesterday that he has no information about Take Back Toledo and that it would be inappropriate for him, as a state official, to comment on the effort to recall Mr. Finkbeiner.

Mr. Bell, a Democrat, said he s giving strong consideration to running for mayor but hasn t made a decision.

Toledo Councilman George Sarantou, a Republican who is considering a run for the mayor s office or re-election to his at-large council seat, declined to say if he would sign the recall petition.

When you are in public life, you have to have some small degree of privacy, and I would rather not answer that question, Mr. Sarantou said.

Keith Wilkowski, a Democrat who has formed a committee to explore a run for mayor, said Thursday that he agrees with the recall drive and would sign the petition.

Jon Stainbrook, the Republican chairman of Lucas County, said he opposed the recall initiative.

I welcome this group of business leaders and concerned citizens, and their willingness to become more involved in the process, and I look forward to working with them on other positive issues, Mr. Stainbrook said. The Lucas County Republican Party, we have strong candidates for council and mayor, and these funds could be better used.

Mr. Stainbrook said he has serious candidates for those offices, but declined to identify them yesterday.

Mr. Stainbrook also echoed the sentiments of some elected officials yesterday, stating he was unaware who exactly was backing the recall effort.

These people are mad at this particular mayor, Mr. Stainbrook said. We just have to find the right strong mayor.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.comor 419-724-6058.



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