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Published: Friday, 4/1/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Maumee mayor faces question of ethics

Loans to Wagener could be a state violation

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Maumee City Council is looking into whether loans Mayor  Tim Wagener took from a city employee were an ethics violation. Maumee City Council is looking into whether loans Mayor Tim Wagener took from a city employee were an ethics violation.
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Maumee City Council may decide at a special meeting next week whether to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission against Mayor Tim Wagener for improper conduct related to loans he received from a city employee since 2006.

During the special session at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at city hall, council will reveal findings from an internal investigation into the loans that was requested by the mayor, who was told years ago such conduct was improper, Council President Rich Carr said Thursday.

Neither the mayor nor Mr. Carr would confirm the name of the city employee who loaned the money.

However, financial disclosure statements filed by the mayor with the Ohio Ethics Commission in recent years list "L.M. Wilker" as a creditor.

Linda Wilker is Maumee's acting finance director; she could not be reached for comment. An official said she was out of the office because of a recent medical procedure.

In a letter to the community released Thursday, Mayor Wagener said he has asked the state ethics panel to conduct an inquiry into his actions that resulted in a city employee, who is also a friend, loaning him money when he was experiencing financial difficulties in recent years. He has been mayor 12 years.

Mr. Wagener said the loan was related to his mortgage, but Mr. Carr said the initial loan was used to pay for an airline ticket to California when the city was in the running for All-America City honors in 2006.

Paul Nick, interim executive director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, said he could neither confirm nor deny whether the commission is involved in a review of the mayor's actions.

The special meeting is being called at the request of the entire council, Mr. Carr said Thursday. A full report will be presented by investigators, Arizona attorney Mike Angelo, who represents several communities in Ohio on legal matters, and Maumee's Police Chief Robert Zink.

After the report is presented, "we will vote whether to file a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission," Mr. Carr said. He said Mr. Angelo was brought in to avoid a conflict of interest.

The total amount involved was $3,400 for several loans, Mr. Carr said, noting that council's concern is not driven by the amount, but rather that the mayor in 2006 had been told it would be improper to accept a loan from a city employee. At that time, council had learned that the mayor had contacted a city employee and requested money, and in response, the mayor "was called in and was advised it was improper," Mr. Carr said.

Mr. Wagener acknowledged that it was improper and said the money would be paid back, Mr. Carr said.

Then, late last year the same city employee told the city's law director that the mayor borrowed money three more times after the 2006 loan. It's council's understanding that the mayor cannot borrow a substantial sum of money from an employee who reports to the mayor, Mr. Carr said, noting that the loans weren't paid back until council launched its investigation.

"The mayor says it does not create any conflict," the council president said, "but that is not for us to decide."

Because of the pending investigation, Mr. Wagener said he legally cannot provide details on the matter beyond what he outlined in a letter to the community released Thursday.

"Like many of you, my own family has been hurt by the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. It has been a real struggle for us as I've worked two jobs to pay bills and put two children and my wife through college," the mayor said in his letter.

"A few years ago, finances became very tight when both my wife and I experienced unexpected medical issues. I feared that we were going to lose our home; the home that I grew up in. A dear friend that I knew before I was ever elected to anything in Maumee then offered me a loan. While pride nearly got in the way, I reluctantly accepted the loan as I am sure many of you would have done if that meant keeping your house and supporting your family. The person from whom I accepted the loan is an employee of the city and some members of city council have raised concerns regarding that fact. I certainly recognize where those members of council are coming from, though at the time, political ramifications never crossed my mind.

"My greatest concern was how I was going to fight off foreclosure while continuing to support my family," the mayor stated.

He said his mayor's salary is about $27,000 a year.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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