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Mayor to nominate 9 to fill 11 vacancies on Board of Community Relations

In a step toward breaking a months-long impasse, the Bell administration will submit to Toledo City Council nine nominations for appointment to the Board of Community Relations.

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat said the names will be included in council's agenda packet for Tuesday's meeting, ending a waiting period for one board candidate that stretches back to January.

The BCR - an independent organization chartered by the city of Toledo to mediate societal conflicts and disputes - has 11 vacancies on its 26-member board and is also without an executive director. The mayor is charged with appointing all board members subject to council's approval.

In most cases, the board suggests candidates to the mayor's office for appointment. The longest-waiting candidate, Mohamed Samir Hefzy, was submitted for approval by the Finkbeiner administration last year, but council never confirmed him. Dr. S. Zaheer Hasan was submitted to the Bell administration Jan. 29.

The Rev. Matthew Allen, Matthew Sobecki, Kathy Broka, David Blyth, Jr., and Tonya Colbert have awaited appointment to the board for a month or more. Former Executive Director Juanita Greene and Keith Jordan were recommended for appointment this week.

Linda Culp, the BCR's vice president, is seeking re-appointment. All of the appointees will serve three-year terms.

Mr. Herwat said the delay in nominating the board's recommended candidates for City Council's approval was caused by the city's ongoing study of all its boards and commissions.

"Certainly not the BCR, because we intend to keep the BCR and make the appointments, but we're looking at consolidating a number of our boards and commissions," Mr. Herwat said. "We have over 60 boards and commissions and we think that's too high a number, so that's been part of the delay in filling the positions."

The Bell administration drew the ire of the BCR and council last month when it appeared Mayor Mike Bell had hired former Bell campaign worker and television production manager Bill Stewart to take over for Ms. Greene, whose last day as director was Oct. 1.

Ms. Greene announced her retirement at the BCR's August meeting and introduced Mr. Stewart as her replacement. BCR board President Jewell Lightner and Councilman Joe McNamara were among those who suggested it was inappropriate and perhaps against the city's administrative code to hire Mr. Stewart without the BCR's recommendation.

At a council committee meeting this week, Mr. Herwat reiterated the administration's initial stance that Mr. Stewart, at $55,000 a year, is officially a manager of special projects and a special assistant to Mayor Bell. Mr. Herwat said during that meeting Mr. Stewart's responsibilities involving the BCR were to field and redirect phone calls made to the board and temporarily oversee preparations for the annual Martin Luther King Unity Celebration in February.

Board members present objected to those arrangements, including Warren Woodberry, who said he was "completely confused why $55,000 would go to someone" to oversee Unity Day when "the board does that as volunteers."

Mr. Herwat said later the city has since agreed to turn over the BCR cell phone and Mr. Stewart's information regarding Unity Day to board members.

As for replacing Ms. Greene as executive director, Mr. Herwat said advertisements for the position would be published tomorrow.

Mr. Herwat said Mr. Stewart's salary has been coming out of the BCR's $115,000 budget, but he soon will be transferred to the mayor's office budget and the BCR's funds will be made whole.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

or 419-724-6559.

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