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Published: Friday, 4/17/2009

Recall will go before voters

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The group trying to oust Mayor Carty Finkbeiner from office in the closing months of his term was told yesterday that it had enough signatures to put a recall question before voters.

But the Take Back Toledo committee plans to fight to have the election Sept. 15 rather than the Nov. 3 date upon which election officials have agreed.

"The sooner, the better," said Brian Schwartz, coordinator of the petition drive for the committee, Take Back Toledo. "We're not convinced at this point that it's a November election."

The Lucas County Board of Elections stopped verifying signatures when it reached 20,400 yesterday afternoon, said Jeremy Demagall, deputy director. The city charter requires 19,753 valid signatures of registered Toledo voters.

Mr. Demagall noted that about 4,000 uncounted signatures still could be verified.

Take Back Toledo last week turned in 45,500 signatures on a petition to recall Mr. Finkbeiner.

The group, some of whose members helped him get elected in 2005, contend the mayor has been fiscally irresponsible, driven potential business away from Toledo, and embarrassed the city.

The mayor yesterday did not respond. Nor has he taken any steps to challenge the petitions.

A citizen challenge of the petitions was rejected on Wednesday by Clerk of Council Gerald Dendinger. Point Place resident David Schulz said the petition form did not comply with state law. But Mr. Dendinger said the city law director and an independent lawyer hired at a cost of $1,500 assured him the recall petition is valid under both city and state law.

The outside attorney, Don

McTigue of Columbus, said he plans to have a written opinion to Mr. Dendinger by today.

Mr. Schwartz said the group was not surprised at the 53 percent validation rate, which he said was typical of large-scale petition drives.

Many of the invalid signatures were given by people who were not registered or did not live at the addresses they wrote in.

Mr. Demagall said the signature verifications ended up being less costly than the $10,000 to $15,000 estimate, which was based on 30 temporary workers putting in a full week of 16-hour days. The final tab is expected to be around $7,000.

The election board today will send the signatures back to Mr. Dendinger, who has said he must officially decide by Sunday whether the petitions are sufficient.

After that, the mayor will then have five days in which to resign. If he chooses not to, the recall question will be sent to the board of elections.

Linda Howe, director of the Board of Elections, said there is a consensus that the recall election must take place in the general election Nov. 3. Take Back Toledo had hoped to be on the Sept. 15 ballot.

If the recall would be successful in November, Mr. Finkbeiner would leave office with less than two months left in his term, and the president of City Council, now Mark Sobczak, would take over mayoral duties until the next mayor is seated in early January.

Mr. Finkbeiner has not said whether he intends to run for re-election to a fourth term. Legally, he could be removed from office and re-elected on the same day.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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