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Published: Saturday, 5/24/2014 - Updated: 3 months ago

Receptionists no longer seated outside Toledo mayor’s office

Administration acts amid security concerns

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
The receptionist’s desk is un-attended Friday outside the mayor’s office at One Government Center. The receptionist’s desk is un-attended Friday outside the mayor’s office at One Government Center.
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The Toledo mayor’s office has traditionally had a face to greet the public.

Visitors to the mayor’s 22nd floor suite now are greeted by a desk, an empty chair, and a phone with a listing of extensions to dial.

Security concerns prompted Mayor D. Michael Collins and City Spokesman Lisa Ward to withdraw the two alternating receptionists from their post and leave the front desk empty.

“People were coming up and creating a problem; threatening people,” said Ms. Ward, who supervises the two employees.

Mayor Collins said he has been concerned since an Ohio Highway Patrol officer assigned to the building went on medical leave, which left only an unarmed private security force on site.

Neither the mayor nor Ms. Ward would give specifics about what kind of disturbances prompted the change. They are now considering changes, including installing some kind of window in the lobby area of the mayor's suite or locking the doors immediately outside of the elevators and installing an intercom system. There is a panic button in the mayor’s office lobby that alerts security on the first floor.

Ms. Ward said the administration also considered asking security to keep people from going to the 22nd floor unless they have an appointment.

“There is a book of people who are not supposed to be allowed up, but they were coming up anyway,” Ms. Ward said. “It's a fine line between creating access for the public and making sure the staff is safe.”

Keeping people from going to the 22nd floor at One Government Center is problematic. Upon entering, visitors are asked to sign in and show a photo identification. Although the sign-in sheet includes a place to fill in what floor a person intends to visit, once past security, the public can travel to any floor unrestricted.

Some city and county offices in the building are more secure than others. Toledo City Council several years ago installed a glass window on top of a counter to block access to the internal council office area. Former Council President Wilma Brown ordered the change after the 2011 shooting in an Arizona parking lot that gravely wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed a federal judge.

“I was always afraid of [the internal council office area] being open because there are sometimes unruly people coming in,” Ms. Brown said. “I wanted my people out there to be safe.”

Also in 2011, council authorized spending nearly $27,000 for a bullet-proof security enclosure for water department employees working in the customer service area at the Ohio Building downtown.

Unlike the mayor's office or other government offices in One Government Center, Toledo City Council has a full-time police officer assigned to it.

The Lucas County Commissioners have a receptionist greet people upon entering their eighth-floor office. There are no other discernible security measures, although sheriff deputes can be found at other county facilities, such as the Jobs and Family Services or Child Support Enforcement Agency buildings.

The Ohio Department of Administrative Services manages One Government Center downtown and several other buildings throughout the state.

The building was previously managed by the Ohio Building Authority, but Gov. John Kasich put it and other government buildings under the control of the department of administrative services. Shortly after the switch, building security was told to stop inspecting bags belonging to people entering the building.

Beth Gianforcaro, spokesman for the state agency, sent an email responding to some questions from The Blade regarding security at its facilities.

“We take security concerns very seriously at each building and we have specific security protocols in place that are designed for each building including [One Government Center],” she said. “We do not use a generic security plan due to the unique operational aspects of each building. … If tenants within the buildings desire a higher level of security than what DAS provides, they have the ability to install additional security measures beyond what DAS provides.”

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



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