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Published: Monday, 3/15/2010

Conflict on local homeless board appears to have quieted for now

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The rift among Toledo-Lucas County Homelessness Board members appears to have mended for now, with high-profile activist Ken Leslie keeping his seat despite a state office clearing fellow board member Paula Lewis of his unethical conduct claims.

The board's president, Paul Tecpanecatl, said he will not revive his motion to oust Mr. Leslie, saying it's time to move on.

Mr. Leslie agreed, saying he believes the flap will at least result in clearer conflict of interest policies.

All that remains is an upcoming audit of the board's operation, which Mr. Tecpanecatl expects to be done this spring by the Columbus-based Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.

Ms. Lewis was put in charge of a federal stimulus program for the homeless at Family Outreach Community United Services, or FOCUS, in late October, three months after being part of a steering committee that recommended FOCUS for a $54,197 contract.

Mr. Leslie viewed that as a conflict of interest, saying weeks ago that Ms. Lewis should not have accepted the job because of her prior role on the steering committee.

He had asked the homelessness board to look into the matter. Instead, it considered a motion by Mr. Tecpanecatl Feb. 5 to have Mr. Leslie removed from the board, citing a history of clashes.

Mr. Leslie is founder of Tent City, downtown Toledo's annual weekend camp-out for the homeless.

He also owns Strategic Search Consultants, an executive search firm for the electronic document industry.

By an 8-3 vote, the board tabled a vote on his fate at the Feb. 5 meeting, pending an outcome into the ethics complaint against Ms. Lewis, as well as an extensive audit of board operations.

The legal opinion about Ms. Lewis came from the Ohio Department of Development's Legal Counsel & Ethics Office, which said it found no conflict existed because 76 days had elapsed between the time the steering committee had distributed money and the date her new job began.

"We're pleased. We did not think there was a conflict," Mr. Tecpanecatl said. "If we have something like this over our heads, we're not going to be as effective as we could be."

Mr. Leslie said he is "baffled by how bureaucrats work."

"But it thrills me they're going to create policies and procedures that will prevent this from happening again," he said.

Mr. Tecpanecatl said: "We're all working toward the same goal. It's just we have different means of doing it."

The board's next meeting is at 3 p.m. Thursday at its headquarters, 1946 13th St.

The board has 25 seats by charter, but only 14 of them are held by active voters. An ouster would have required support from at least 75 percent of the voting members, meaning 11 of the 14 would have been required to remove Mr. Leslie.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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