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Audio recordings of a city employee pressuring a local contractor to recant statements he made to The Blade were turned over to Toledo’s law director Thursday morning.
The recordings followed publication of a story that detailed allegations of bid rigging, favoritism, and poor oversight in the city’s department of neighborhoods.
Craig Gordy, of Continental Construction, told The Blade that city rehab specialist Toni Thomas steered him to use Leon Jackson as a subcontractor on a project in the city’s federally funded roofing program. Mr. Gordy said Ms. Thomas told him to hire Jackson, who has a lengthy criminal history, and instructed him not to list Jackson on city paperwork.
Councilman D. Michael Collins, who questioned the administration about alleged pressure tactics against contractors during a council hearing Wednesday, said he provided two voice mail recordings to the city’s law department Thursday morning.
The first recording is from Nov. 23 — the day after The Blade’s article appeared. In it, Ms. Thomas tells Mr. Gordy that he needs to retract his statement to The Blade or go to a competing media outlet. She also says in the message that Kattie Bond, director of the neighborhoods department, told her to tell Mr. Gordy he needs to recant his statements.
Here’s a transcript of the message: “Craig, it’s Toni. Kattie just called me and she says that they are really hanging their hat on the statement that you made. So, I told her you had called Tony Cook from The Blade and I don’t know if you got a response, but she said that you need to recant your statement or she suggested you call 13 ABC news and recant it because they are holding their hat on that statement that was made. If you could, call me back as soon as you get this message. Thanks, bye.” [LISTEN]
Two days after the first message, Ms. Thomas left another message on Nov. 25. This time, she accused him of slander and said she was speaking with an attorney.
“Hi Craig, this is Toni,” she said. “I just wanted to let you know I am meeting with an attorney Tuesday. I have spoken with him today and this really has reflected terribly on me and my family and something needs to be put in writing saying this isn’t true. So I’m just letting you know that I am meeting with an attorney because I’ve been done unjustly and this is slander. So, just thought I’d let you know. And hopefully you can get that recanted like you said and it won’t be necessary. But in the meantime, I have to look out for my family and myself, so, talk to you later.” [LISTEN]
Mr. Gordy, Ms. Thomas, Ms. Bond, and city law director Adam Loukx were not immediately available for comment.
But Mr. Collins said he asked Mr. Gordy if he had, in fact, told Ms. Thomas that he planned to recant. “He has unequivocally denied any discussions with Ms. Thomas relevant to recanting his statements,” the councilman said.
Mr. Collins, who obtained the recordings from the contractor, said the voice mail messages reinforce his call for an outside investigation.
“The original voice mail message purports to be a directive by a subordinate from the director, Kattie Bond, to convey to the contractor he must recant his statement to The Blade or go to the ABC Channel 13,” he said. “In light of the fact that a member of the Bell administration has been named, it fortifies for me my position that a complete investigation should be conducted with an outside professional law enforcement agency.”
During Wednesday’s council hearing on the issues, Mayor Mike Bell said his administration would make several changes to the neighborhood department’s bidding process to improve the perception of fairness, but administration officials emphasized that the changes don’t necessarily mean wrongdoing has occurred. The mayor also said the administration would conduct a 45-day review of the department and report back to council.
Contact Tony Cook at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-9848.