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Konop asks reform panel's chief to push for big changes

The volunteer group getting ready to scrutinize Lucas County government should start with a preference for advocating major change in the structure of county government, according to County Commissioner Ben Konop.

Mr. Konop, in a letter Thursday to Olivia Summons, the leader of the proposed Citizen Review of Lucas County, said the panel should set an April 1 deadline, and its members should plan for a charter ballot initiative in 2011. He made other suggestions as well.

"There is no need to convene a panel with members who are interested in preserving the status quo. The group's goal should be putting forward to the voters a substantive change in county government," Mr. Konop said.

Mr. Konop earlier this year supported a failed effort to put a county charter proposal on the Nov. 2 ballot that would abolish the existing structure of county government in favor of a county executive-county council model.

Mrs. Summons said Thursday that she agreed with some of Mr. Konop's recommendations, but would not agree to prejudge the need for a charter question on the ballot.

"It could result in a charter initiative. It could be some [recommendations for] changes in the

Ohio Revised Code," Mrs. Summons said. "I cannot guarantee that [a charter proposal] would come out of this if we're going to be truly objective and look at all the options."

Nor did she agree with his request for an April 1 deadline. Mrs. Summons has asked for nine months, once the study gets started.

She agreed with Mr. Konop's other recommendations not to appoint panelists with a conflict of interest, and to make sure the panels have political, geographical, and racial diversity, and have representation from academia and labor unions.

Mrs. Summons was a president of the former Corporation for Effective Government, a volunteer group composed largely of business executives that hired itself out for local government studies before its demise about 10 years ago.

Many of those working with Mrs. Summons also were members of CEG.

So far, the study is in the planning phases. Mrs. Summons met with the commissioners individually three weeks ago to lay out the proposed scope of the study. She has met with Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, to ask for staff and research help.

County Commissioner Pete Gerken said he agreed with Mr. Konop's recommendations for a diverse set of panelists.

But he said April 1 is too short of a deadline. And he said the panel should not be required to produce a county charter to go on the ballot.

"She's advised me, and I agree that they are going in with no preset notion, that the chips will fall where they may, and that's been her position from day one," Mr. Gerken said. "They could recommend a charter the commissioners might support to put on the ballot. They might come back with other recommendations."

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.

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