Toledo mayoral candidate Joe McNamara on Wednesday blasted one of his chief opponents for having government employees at an event to announce her candidacy.
Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez, who has run for and won three elective offices, kicked off her campaign April 16 with about 300 people in the Aurora Gonzalez Community Center in South Toledo. Among the crowd were at least six county employees.
“Last week, I signed an ethics pledge that said, among other things, that I would not let government employees work on my campaign during government hours, now, or as the next mayor of Toledo,” Mr. McNamara said during a news conference outside One Government Center on Wednesday. “I was shocked to see that the very next day that, not only did Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez have her employees at the event, but that they were running the event.”
Mr. McNamara said it appeared Ms. Lopez turned her staff into a taxpayer-funded campaign force.
“It’s cheating the taxpayers if you are using employees to do campaign stuff,” he said. “If people want to work for whomever on their own time, sure, but that is not what happened here.”
Ms. Lopez on Wednesday shot back at Mr. McNamara and said county employees present at the 5 p.m. event were there on their own time.
“This really sounds like Mr. McNamara trying to create media attention for a campaign that has nothing productive to say and lacks a clear vision for moving the city forward,” she said.
The auditor’s office is open until 5 p.m. and her staff members were at the Aurora Gonzalez Community Center in South Toledo by 4:30 p.m. Ms. Lopez said she could provide time sheets to show that each of the employees was on personal time for the event. Those documents, however, were not available Wednesday, she said.
Billy Benner, Ms. Lopez’s campaign manager who is also her county-funded part-time executive assistant, was among those at the event, where he made her available for media interviews. Abby Arnold, chief of staff in Ms. Lopez’s office, was at the door greeting people.
Ms. Lopez said she would not sign Mr. McNamara’s pledge.
“I have been a firm supporter of people’s First Amendment right to free speech and I will not dictate what anyone can or cannot do,” she said.
Mr. McNamara said he would refuse to accept the campaign help of any government worker during regular business hours, even if they take vacation and break time to do political work. His pledge also includes candidates not accepting contributions from government workers over whom they have the power to hire and fire.
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, who is seeking a second term, could not be reached Wednesday. Mr. Bell’s campaign consultant, Mark Luetke, said he is taking the pledge request seriously.
“He has had a pretty heavy schedule,” Mr. Luetke said. “After getting back from Germany, he testified in Columbus against some legislation [and] he has to take care of city business before he decides what he is going to do with it.“
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