As the Bell administration continues to transform the image of city government, it apparently has adopted more of a forgive-and-forgot policy.
City leaders recently decided to name a street after a businessman whom Toledo once sued, and they also granted a low-interest $100,000 loan to another man who owed thousands in back payroll taxes -- someone who also was sued by the city.
Toledo City Council will consider legislation Tuesday to rename Woodstock Avenue from Dorr Street to Nebraska Avenue as "Jimmy Jackson Way."
Mr. Jackson, a former restaurant owner who began playing professional basketball after the 1992 NBA draft when he was the fourth overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks, was sued by the city in 2007 under Mayor Carty Finkberiner.
The dispute involved the construction timetable Mr. Jackson and partner David Ball agreed to in 2005 for redevelopment of the former Toledo Edison Steam Plant, at Madison Avenue on the Maumee River.
It was supposed to be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2007 but still sits as empty and unlived in as the day the two made that commitment five years ago.
Mr. Finkbeiner had ordered the city to take Mr. Ball and Mr. Jackson's firm, Water Street Station Development LLC, to court in April, 2007, in an attempt to force them to start construction or turn the building back over to the city.
The lawsuit dragged on for years and soon after Mike Bell took office in January, 2010, the suit against Water Street Development Co. was dismissed by the city without prejudice.
Mr. Jackson, a Macomber High School graduate and 14-year NBA player who has had his fingers in a variety of businesses over the years, could not be reached for comment.
Toledo Councilman D. Michael Collins has pressed the administration for months as to why the lawsuit was dropped.
"It was my understanding that the city of Toledo could re-file up to one year and resume litigation," Mr. Collins wrote in a Nov. 1 e-mail to Law Director Adam Loukx. "I am seeking direction from your office as to what are the options remaining, concerning the steam plant, and what course of action we will be taking to protect a $1.7 million investment for the taxpayers of the city of Toledo."
Mr. Loukx declined to comment on the lawsuit because the city has the option of re-filing.
Thursday, Mr. Collins said Mr. Jackson's basketball career alone appeared to make him worthy of the street-naming.
"We sued him in 2007, along with his partner with Dave Ball, and his restaurant downtown is now gone," Mr. Collins said. "He was a great athlete and I am certain the city of Toledo could be proud of his efforts on the basketball court of Macomber, the Ohio State University, and his professional career, and it is for those efforts that it is acceptable to name a street after him."
Mr. Jackson's restaurant was at 233 North Huron St. downtown.
The Bell administration is helping out a West Toledo restaurant owner Mo Dari and his wife Suzan Dari, who operate The Oasis at Dorr Street and Secor Road.
The $100,000 loan was recommended Aug. 31 by Brad Peebles, commissioner of economic development.
"Unquestionably these types of loans do put block grant dollars at risk," Mr. Peebles wrote Aug. 31 in his recommendation of the loan. "This being an enterprise development loan, which has specific guidelines intended to incent participation of local banks to accomplish the goal of this type of loan."
The loan was later approved as a four-year term with 2 percent interest with the money coming from the city's federally allocated Community Development Block Grant Fund.
It was subsequently discovered that Mr. Dari owed the city thousands in delinquent payroll taxes and the loan was placed on hold, Mr. Peebles said.
He said that payment was made in full Thursday. City Finance Director Patrick McLean also said that the loan check had already been written for Mr. Dari.
Mr. McLean said Mr. Dari remains on a payment plan for a portion of the unpaid taxes.
The city is forbidden by law to reveal how much Mr. Dari owes, but Mr. Dari himself acknowledged that it was about $30,000.
On Oct. 29, the city filed a lawsuit in Toledo Municipal Court against Mr. Dari for $13,465. Also, on April 7, 2009, the city taxation division filed a lawsuit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court against Dari Pizza Enterprises II Inc., Cottage Inn Pizza, 1122 North Byrne Rd.
In the end, the city cut him a sizable break on penalties and interest for the back taxes before he was handed the $100,000 loan.
"We paid the taxes," Mr. Dari said Thursday. "You can't be behind in anything and if you have any tax obligation, you can't get that loan. So we got that taken care of."
Mr. Dari said he needs the money to help the business survive and expand.
"We fell into a lot of holes because we lost a lot of financing, due to the credit crunch. We lost $750,000 in financing," he said. "We are growing in two different ways: We are adding more equipment, more employees to get to the next level, and we are adding to the business."
His loan application with the city states the business would retain 25 jobs and add 25 jobs in 2012.
The city has a number of grants and loans available to business owners. In September, the Bell administration asked council to forgive part of a 10-year-old loan given to another restaurateur. Council unanimously approved the requested settlement of loan claims for Hillenbrand/Zaleski Retail, which operated Diva's, an upscale restaurant and bar downtownn that has since closed.
Hillenbrand/Zaleski Retail, LLC borrowed $100,000 from the city in 2000 -- which was also an economic development loan.
The loan was "personally guaranteed by business partners Eric Hillenbrand and James Zaleski," according to city documents.
Collections started against the owners in 2002 for the outstanding balance of $80,859. At that time, the restaurant was still operating the and outstanding loan balance was reduced to $55,015.
The city settled for $25,000, minus the fee of up to 20 percent for the law firm of Scheer, Green, & Burke, Co. LPA.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: email@example.com or 419-724-6171.
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