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Published: Wednesday, 11/14/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Toledo council meeting on spending gets raucous

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

What was supposed to be a routine Toledo City Council agenda meeting Tuesday turned slightly tumultuous with one member threatening legal action against the Bell administration over withheld information.

A new request for council to approve $29,000 so the city could buy a used 15-passenger van for the police department prompted Councilman George Sarantou to inquire again about what city department funded the purchases of a 2013 Chevy Tahoe for $42,000 and a 2011 GMC Terrain for $26,516.

He had asked months ago for the information and reissued the demand Tuesday.

Councilman D. Michael Collins went a step further and threatened to order City Law Director Adam Loukx to file a writ of mandamus against the Bell administration in an attempt to get the mayor’s office to answer a list of 17 unanswered questions and provide public records.

“If you give me an answer in writing ... I think we can avoid this,” Mr. Collins said to Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat during the meeting. “I fully intend on seeking that action if I am going to be stymied.”

Mr. Sarantou likewise said he wanted to know if he would receive an answer.

In October, Mr. Collins fired off a letter listing his outstanding questions and requests for information.

He was seeking information on a missing forklift; an explanation of how the city fire department exceeded its 2011 budget by “well over $1 million” if the merger with the Ottawa Hills fire department achieved an expected $900,000 savings; a list of mayor’s office employees with a comparison to the last several years, and the number of vacant beds that the city funds at the Lucas County jail.

Regarding the Terrain, it was purchased out of the assessed fund for street sweeping, and the Tahoe was purchased with money from the city’s Streets, Bridges, and Harbor Fund.

Both councilmen wanted to know whether the sport utility vehicles were legally purchased.

Mayor Mike Bell could not be reached for comment as he was on his way to China Tuesday for a trade mission along with about 20 local businessmen.

Mr. Herwat said many of the questions posed by Mr. Collins were already answered during committee hearings.

“Since he is threatening legal action, I should not comment,” Mr. Herwat said.

The city law director works for both council and the mayor. Mr. Loukx declined to comment.

In other business Tuesday, some members wrangled lightly over the process for appointing a new member to council once Councilman Phil Copeland resigns his at-large seat to take the Lucas County recorder seat. He defeated Mr. Sarantou for the seat.

Council President Joe McNamara said the process has been flawed.

Mr. McNamara has proposed a change to council’s rules regarding the appointment of new members. He’s suggested, where there are more than two applicants, and none receives majority support from sitting councilmen after the first vote, only the top two vote-getters would proceed to a next round for another vote.

Councilman Lindsay Webb said the process has not been flawed and objected to changing the rules until after the appointment.

“Why do we need to alter it with rule-changes and advertising?” Ms. Webb said.

Councilman Tom Waniewski suggested advertising the opening.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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