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Perrysburg city council rejects prosecutor appointment

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    Perrysburg Mayor Tom Mackin

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The top choice of Perrysburg’s new administration for the city’s prosecutor job was not approved by city council when it met Tuesday night. 

Chynna Fifer, who currently works as the assistant Wood County public defender, was voted down 4-3. 

Jim Matuszak, Haraz Ghanbari, Barry VanHoozen, and Deborah Born voted against the recommendations of Mayor Tom Mackin, law director Karlene Henderson, and outgoing prosecutor P. Martin Aubry.

“This wasn’t a decision made about the quality of the person,” Mr. Aubry said Wednesday. “This is being reserved as a political appointment.”

He slammed his badge on the council dais after council came out of executive session and voted against his endorsed candidate.

“It wasn’t in resignation,” said Mr. Aubry, who had already submitted a retirement letter prior to the meeting. “It’s just that I could never wear that with pride again. I was disgusted.”

His last day in the job will be March 31, as planned before Tuesday night’s meeting. 

Those voting against Ms. Fifer did not identify particular flaws in her candidacy and instead advocated for a more open process to draw in additional candidates. 

“I am very much interested in working with the administration and the mayor, but I won’t act as a rubber stamp for everything the mayor does,” Mr. Ghanbari said. 

The position was not advertised, raising concerns that the city could not know it had the best candidate for the job. 

“They could’ve looked at more people,” said Mr. Matuszak, the council president. “This needs to be the best person.”

Jonathan Smith, who voted with Becky Williams and Tim McCarthy in favor of Ms. Fifer’s appointment, said discussion during executive session helped quell concerns he had about the process. He did not elaborate, but he said he was satisfied with her qualifications despite what he considered to be a brief search process.

Council members were notified by a Jan. 31 email from Ms. Henderson that Ms. Fifer was the administration’s nominee. 

“This did seem to move relatively quickly for such an important position,” Mr. Smith said. 

An informal search process had been ongoing for years, the Jan. 31 email said, and making a quick decision was important to giving the new prosecutor a chance to work alongside Mr. Aubry before he leaves his position. 

“Since, for non-bargaining unit positions under Administration there is not a specific process that is required to recruit and hire for that position, Marty and I, over the last few years, have kept an eye out for a potential replacement,” Ms. Henderson wrote. “It was important to find someone whose personality would fit the integrity of the office and who is an established and experienced attorney in criminal practice.”

Both Mr. Ghanbari and Mr. Matuszak, registered Republicans, said politics did not influence their votes. Ms. Fifer is a registered Democrat. Party registration is required in Ohio to vote in partisan primaries, such as the presidential and gubernatorial elections. 

The city’s prosecutor is nominated by the city’s law director, with the approval of the mayor and the city council. Both Ms. Henderson and Mr. Mackin spoke highly of Ms. Fifer, who did not respond to a request for comment.  

Ms. Fifer has been in her current position in Wood County since March, 2017, according to her resume, and worked as an assistant prosecutor in Lucas County from September, 2014, until taking the Wood County job. That experience on both sides of the courtroom was appealing to Mr. Mackin, who works as the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority’s chief legal officer. 

“There’s a finite number of qualified people in the region,” he said. “Opening up the process gets you to the same point.”

At this point, he is working on a plan for finding the city’s next prosecutor, but hopes Ms. Fifer will end up in the role.

“It would be Perrysburg’s loss to not have Chynna Fifer as our prosecutor,” he said. 

Contact Zack Lemon at zlemon@theblade.com419-724-6282 or on Twitter @zack_lemon.

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