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Laid-off officer says official took yard sign

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The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Laid-off Toledo police officer Aaron Riter was outside his home last week and prevented a common theft that occurs every year around Election Day: the stealing of campaign yard signs.

But the attempted thievery on his property was more than just a regular opponent to a ballot question or candidate.

The alleged perpetrator, who was dressed all in black and was caught red-handed at 11:30 p.m. Thursday stealing a pro-Issue 1 yard sign, according to Mr. Riter, was his nearby neighbor, Susan Frederick, a commissioner of Toledo’s Division of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor.

“She came up on my yard, and I asked if I could help her but didn’t get a response right away,” Mr. Riter said. “I looked down and saw that she had my Issue 1 yard sign folded under her arm.”

The Toledo Police Pat rolman’s Association paid for 500 pro-Issue 1 yard signs. On the other side of the ballot issue is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, which printed signs denouncing the ballot question voters will decide on Tuesday.

Ms. Frederick, who lives on Springbrook Drive, did not return phone calls seeking comment. She was criticized recently after writing Toledoans parking tickets for parking on their own gravel or stone-covered surfaces, many of which were turnarounds not leading to garages.

Mr. Riter said she returned the sign Thursday night after he threatened to call the police and have her arrested for trespassing.

“She started saying the police would not show up and they are all lazy,” he said. “The next day, Friday afternoon, … she came to my door and said she wanted to apologize for trying to steal my sign.”

That’s when Ms. Frederick told Mr. Riter she could take his resume and put it in for a manager’s position in her division that pays at least $52,000 and up to $68,000 a year, he said.

If approved, Issue 1 would reduce the city’s general fund deficit this year by $3.9 million. Issue 1 — also called Safety First — will change the way Toledo’s 0.75 percent renewable income tax is allocated. A third of the tax now goes to capital improvements, one-third to the general fund, and one-third to police and fire.

If approved, for the remainder of 2009, all the money would go toward the general fund and police and fire operations. For 2010, 2011, and 2012, the allocation would be half to police and fire, a third to the general fund, and a sixth to capital improvements.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, a supporter of Ms. Frederick, opposes Issue 1. He has said the plan would eliminate funding for residential street repaving through 2012, but supporters like the TPPA and Toledo City Council President Joe McNamara have rejected that claim.

Mr. McNamara said Monday the mayor has offered no alternative way to plug the $3.9 million hole, and that Mr. Finkbeiner instead has continuously asked for tax and fee increases on Toledoans when council has refused to take that action.

He said the mayor's “reckless opposition” to Issue 1 jeopardizes Toledo's safety.

Councilman D. Michael Collins, chairman of council's law and criminal justice committee, said Ms. Frederick should appear for a hearing if the administration takes no action. “If there is a preponderance of evidence, she should be subject to sanctions up to and including discharge and termination,” he said. “This is conduct subversive to the good order and discipline of employees of the city of Toledo.”

Contact Ignazio Messina at:imessina@theblade.comor 419-724-6171.

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