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Published: Wednesday, 4/15/2009

Few candidates ran against Telb after his original election


James Telb's first run for public office was in 1984 as the Democratic Party's candidate for sheriff.

He handily beat Marion Fitch, a Republican, with 55.2 percent of the vote and succeeded Donald Hickey, the Democratic sheriff who retired after nine years in office.

The Lucas County Republican Party rarely fielded candidates against him afterward.

In 2000 and 1992, Sheriff Telb was unopposed. In 1996, he beat unendorsed Republican Phil Buckenberger with 77 percent of the vote.

He was re-elected without opposition last year.

His most serious challenges came in a three-way 2004 race. He was taken on by two former proteges, Tom Gulch, the former Oregon police chief and Toledo police officer who ran as a Republican, and Dan Contreras, a former sheriff's captain who ran as an independent.

His opponents alleged such problems in the sheriff's office as poor record-keeping, security breaches, low employee morale, and lack of training. They highlighted an incident in 2003 in which a gun was smuggled into the jail to convicted murderer Prentiss Williams, who fired the weapon twice through a metal door at a corrections officer, then pointed the weapon at another officer before surrendering. Neither officer was injured.

Sheriff Telb was further criticized when an off-duty sheriff's deputy was arrested by Toledo police, accused of stealing campaign signs belonging to Mr. Gulch and Mr. Contreras.

Sheriff Telb, a former president of the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, countered he played a major role in developing the county's 911 system for 10 years, and that his experience would be valuable in a new countywide communications system, then under development.

The sheriff, who has a doctorate, at one time was a professor at the University of Toledo, where he was chairman of the department of public service technologies and coordinator of law enforcement technology at UT's community and technical college.

Mr. Gulch and Mr. Contreras had been his students.

Sheriff Telb, early in his first term, received national publicity when deputies in June, 1985, began digging up land in Spencer Township in search of 50 to 60 bodies - people thought to have been murdered in satanic cult sacrifices.

Deputies also were looking for Charity Freeman, a girl who disappeared with her grandfather several years earlier.

No bodies were uncovered. Charity was 13 when she was returned to Toledo in October, 1988, after the FBI found her with her grandfather in Huntington Beach, Calif.

In 1992, Toledo police investigated whether Sheriff Telb fired gunshots into the air after a motorist hit his car downtown as he was returning from The Blade's postelection party.

Sheriff Telb said he did not. Police could not determine whether he fired, but said that even if he had, he would not have violated laws. He wasn't aiming at anyone and, as a law enforcement officer, he was exempt from ordinances against discharging a firearm in the city, police said.

The sheriff's car was totaled.

A slight interruption in his service as sheriff brought some criticism for a move that allowed him to collect his sheriff's salary and a pension.

He retired in September, 2000, so he could claim an $80,000 annual pension from his service at UT and as sheriff. He was re-elected without opposition Nov. 7, 2000. Two days later, county commissioners reappointed him until his new term could begin Jan. 1.

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