Mayor Carty Finkbeiner fired back at a recall effort yesterday that pledges to remove him from office, accusing the three main backers of ethical misdeeds.
Speaking to a city council chamber packed with supporters from the top ranks of his administration and other past friends, followers, and campaign supporters, the mayor painted Take Back Toledo - the group that is attempting the recall - as not part of Toledo.
He attacked three of the most prominent members of the group, and defended his years in politics since his first bid for office in 1974.
"I have not betrayed the sacred trust I believe in, between the voter and the officeholder," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "I have made mistakes - but they have been in advocacy for Toledo. Never have I attempted to advance anything but Toledo and its citizens."
The embattled mayor, who also cited a list of economic development accomplishments and issued a plea for a spirit of caring and generosity, ripped into his critics, two of whom he said do not live in Toledo.
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He accused Tom Schlachter, co-founder of the Moses-Schlachter Group Inc. of Sylvania Township, of attempting to get public funds to profit from information he gained from his service on the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority board.
"Mr. Schlachter lives in Sylvania Township. Yet this man who has never lived in Toledo wants to take back Toledo. Not on my watch," the mayor said.
He accused Brian McMahon, who lives in West Toledo but operates from a business in Perrysburg, of repeatedly misleading area citizens - most recently in his advocacy of an intermodal hub near Toledo Express Airport.
"Mr. McMahon will not be given the chance to fleece Toledoans out of another penny - not on my watch," the mayor said.
For Andy Stuart, the general manager of WSPD-AM, 1370, who lives in Sylvania Township, the mayor promised to ask U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), the newly elected chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, to investigate the radio station for violating the Fairness Doctrine.
He attacked Mr. Stuart over his radio station's "vicious, one-sided diatribes" against him and its refusal to give him time to "rebut the falsehoods and glaring misstatements of WSPD radio."
Reached later, Mr. Stuart said, "the Fairness Doctrine's been defunct for decades. He really had to work hard to find anything he could criticize me or my company about, since we have always been a very generous group that has donated and given a lot to the city."
And Mr. Stuart said the suggestion that as a non-Toledoan he shouldn't start a recall effort is "a completely ridiculous statement" because he pays taxes and works in the city.
Brian Wilson, a WSPD talk show host who has endorsed Take Back Toledo, said the Fairness Doctrine "is not in effect, thanks to President Reagan." He said Mr. Finkbeiner would be invited back on the airwaves when he apologizes for accusing the station of airing half-truths and lies in 2006.
Mr. Wilson said there is no residency requirement in the recall effort.
Under city law, Take Back Toledo has a 90-day window collect 19,753 valid signatures of Toledo voters. If successful, the question would go on the city's Sept. 15, 2009, ballot. If it passes there, Mayor Finkbeiner would be forced out of office for the final three months of his third four-year term.
In a follow-up news conference yesterday, Mr. Finkbeiner said he has not decided whether to seek re-election to a fourth term, but said he would not resign.
He denied a widely held suspicion that he wants to be hired as president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. The former president, James Hartung, was fired earlier this year after Mr. Finkbeiner publicly exposed an extramarital affair that Mr. Hartung had with a port authority lobbyist and called for his removal.
"I have no interest in the presidency of the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority," Mr. Finkbeiner said. "I have never had an ambition to be president of the [port authority]."
Take Back Toledo, which has a Web site, takebacktoledo.com, has portrayed itself as a business-based group. It has filed a notice of designation of treasurer, Mr. Schlachter, with the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. However, other than Mr. Stuart, Mr. McMahon, Mr. Schlachter, and two other men, no large grassroots group has come forward.
The backers have said Mr. Finkbeiner has been fiscally irresponsible, created an unfriendly business environment, and made a series of bad decisions during his time in office.
Mr. Schlachter, a lawyer, said yesterday that Mr. Finkbeiner's accusations border on slander and libel.
Mr. Schlachter defended the two port projects that Mr. Finkbeiner mentioned as good for the community. He said the proposal for a fresh flowers hub at Toledo Express Airport was based on information disclosed in board meetings, and that he resigned in October, 2005, so that he could ethically do business with the port.
He said he was the front man for a group of investors hoping to bring in shipments of fresh flowers from Ecuador. The deal fell through because no back haul from Toledo to Ecuador could be arranged.
The second project was an effort he said he undertook at the request of local officials to assemble parcels for a new Jeep plant, north of where the plant was ultimately developed on Stickney Avenue.
He defended his right as a non-Toledoan to get involved in Toledo politics, saying that he owns income-producing property in Toledo and pays property and income taxes to Toledo.
He said the real goal of Take Back Toledo is to come up with a mayoral candidate in 2009 who is pro-business.
"We most assuredly want to make sure [Mr. Finkbeiner] is not the mayor for four more years starting next year. People will not consider locating in the city, many of them until he is out of office," Mr. Schlachter said.
So far, two people have indicated they likely will run for mayor - Democrat Keith Wilkowski and Republican Jim Moody. Both have said they would sign the petition if presented to them, but that they are not involved in the recall effort.
Mr. McMahon did not return a phone call seeking comment. Mr. Finkbeiner blasted him for persuading city officials in the 1980s to invest $14.35 million in land in Monclova to be annexed to Toledo, and then pocketing "almost three-quarters of a million dollars of Toledo taxpayers money" when the annexation effort failed.
Mr. Finkbeiner also portrayed him as key to the failed effort to develop an arena in Rossford.
He said Mr. McMahon's most recent project "hoodwinked" Toledoans into thinking he had the "perfect" site for an intermodal project near the airport and that Mr. Finkbeiner was denying him water for the site.
"Mr. McMahon flat-out lied to the community on this issue," the mayor said.
Mr. Finkbeiner's speech was cheered by a crowd made up largely of his supporters, including what appeared to be most of the city's top officials. Chief of Staff Robert Reinbolt said city management staffers were invited to come if they were free.
Also in the crowd was Bob McCloskey, a former city councilman who served a two-year prison term for bribery. He declined to comment.
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