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Published: Wednesday, 4/29/2009

Finkbeiner asks court to toss recall petitions

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner made good Tuesday on his promise to fight the group trying to remove him from office with a recall and filed an appeal in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

The mayor filed against Clerk of Council Gerald Dendinger, who certified there were enough valid signatures to put a recall question before voters Nov. 3.

The appeal says the petitions lacked sufficient valid signatures because of the omission of a mandatory provision warning that election falsification is a fifth-degree felony and its inclusion of 2,530 "false or otherwise invalid signatures in addition to the 18,899 false or otherwise invalid signatures identified" by the Lucas County Board of Elections.

Mr. Finkbeiner could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

The group Take Back Toledo collected 45,500 signatures to meet the required minimum of 19,753 signatures of registered Toledo voters.

The elections board validated 20,444 signatures and threw out 19,550, leaving about 5,000 unchecked, for now.

The mayor was notified April 20 by Mr. Dendinger that the petitions turned in April 9 had enough valid signatures to put the recall on the ballot.

The city charter gives the mayor five days to resign to stop the election but Mr. Finkbeiner said he would not resign.

"The day I turn Toledo over to a group of self-interested malcontents from outside of Toledo will be a cold day in a warm place," the mayor said in a prepared statement.

Last week, the mayor said his personal lawyers were examining the petitions checked the previous week by the board of elections and concluded that a significant number are invalid. "There are not enough valid signatures. The evidence is voluminous," the mayor said. "We will contest the validity of a significant number of signatures, as more than half the signatures have already proven to be false or invalid."

If the voters agree with the recall, Mr. Finkbeiner would have to vacate his office with less than two months in his term. He has not said whether he will seek re-election, but he could do so even if he were to be recalled.

John Kulewicz, a lawyer with the Columbus firm Vorys Sater Seymour and Pease LLP, submitted a five-page letter to Mr. Dendinger last week, claiming to have found 2,500 bad signatures over the weekend and asking that the petitions be declared insufficient.

Donald McTigue of Columbus, an independent lawyer hired by Mr. Dendinger to review the petition, said that the petition circulators were not required to include the election falsification warning because the recall petition process is defined by the city charter. And he said the circulators signed an affidavit, under threat of perjury, that the signatures were genuine.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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