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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2011

Maumee councilmen send ethics case to state

Loans to mayor from worker at issue

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener Maumee Mayor Tim Wagener
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Maumee Mayor Timothy Wagener will be investigated by the Ohio Ethics Commission on allegations of ethical violations, City Council decided unanimously Tuesday night after the release of findings from an internal investigation into the intermingling of his private and public lives.

At issue: loans Mr. Wagener received from a city employee and an allegation that the mayor, an insurance agent, obtained a list of retiring city employees, spouses' names, and contact information in an attempt to sell them annuities.

Council President Rich Carr said allegations referred to the ethics commission are only indicative of probable cause, and it will be up to the ethics commission to conduct its own investigation.

Mr. Wagener, who did not attend the meeting, declined comment except to say he will let the nonpartisan ethics commission rule.

During the council session, lawyer Mike Angelo presented findings from the investigation he and Maumee Police Chief Robert Zink conducted, and recommended council forward the matter to the Ohio Ethics Commission for investigation and a determination of whether violations occurred.

Mr. Angelo outlined a scenario of a mayor, deeply in debt from a failed campaign for Lucas County commissioner; from two mortgages, and from a video store business venture, who solicited a $2,500 loan from a city employee in May, 2006, an employee "awash in cash" who could help him financially.

When city officials learned about that loan in November, 2006, the mayor was told to immediately repay the money, and he understood then such behavior was unethical, according to the investigation, and city officials assumed repayment had been made.

However, details about multiple loans surfaced last October after city officials found out the extent of the mayor's financial difficulties, including his home in foreclosure and an IRS tax lien, according to the findings. Council then questioned the mayor's ability to conduct city business in relation to his bonding.

Mr. Angelo said in his report that not only did the mayor solicit a loan from a city employee, but then misrepresented that the matter had been resolved, and then, borrowed money again from the same worker, instructing the employee not to tell and leaving no paper trail.

The mayor allegedly facilitated a $400 loan for his son to buy a car (a loan repaid by the son), and then Mr. Wagener borrowed $500 in 2009 and $400 in 2010 from the same employee, money not repaid until after the investigation was launched.

The special meeting was called at the request of the entire council. A handful of residents attended.

After the meeting, Maumee resident Carolyn Moore said "We still love Tim. We think he's a good mayor. We just feel bad for him."

In his letter to the community, the mayor said his "finances became very tight when both my wife and I experienced unexpected medical issues," and he feared that they were going to lose their home.

"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.

In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Wagener said he would not attend the special meeting because he had "not had any opportunity to review any documents of the interviews conducted, or to question witnesses. As many of you know, the very matter that City Council is discussing tonight I have already taken the unprecedented action of referring this matter regarding my own actions to the Ohio Ethics Commission one week ago."

He added: "I am hopeful that after tonight's meeting, the investigation by City Council that started last October when I was recovering from a stroke, will conclude and we can again focus on other issues."

Although the city employee has not been formally identified, Mr. Wagener listed "L.M. Wilker" as a creditor on financial disclosure reports submitted to the ethics commission. Linda Wilker is Maumee's acting finance director. She was not at the meeting and has been off work for medical reasons recently.

Mr. Wagener, a Democrat, plans to seek re-election in November. Mayor for 12 years, he has faced opposition only in 1999.

Councilman Timothy Pauken, a Republican, has taken out petitions to run for mayor. He is a brother of former Maumee mayor Steve Pauken.

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



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