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Published: Friday, 3/22/2013

Mayor withdraws request to shift cash to vehicles fund

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Bell administration Thursday withdrew a controversial request to shift $437,646 from one fund to another — a move some Toledo councilmen said was meant to clean up the accounting for the purchases of two sport utility vehicles they were misled about.

Deputy Mayor Steve Herwat told the council's finance committee that the Bell administration would remove the legislation from council's agenda. It would have transferred $437,646 out of the city’s general fund into a vehicle replacement fund known as “Fund 7087” for reimbursement of vehicles purchased from 2004 until the present. The vehicles included a 2013 Chevy Tahoe and a 2011 GMC Terrain.

Councilman D. Michael Collins said the legislation was a “cover-up” regarding the two SUVs.

The two SUVs, which have some luxury options such as leather seats and strobe lights, cost taxpayers a combined $69,000. Council authorized $3.75 million in 2010 and $3.25 million in 2011 for “replacement vehicles” for the public service department and the streets departments. The SUVs were purchased under those authorizations.

“Neither of these two vehicles have seen any kind of service in Streets, Bridges, and Harbor,” Mr. Collins said. “I am convinced they presented this legislation as a way to cover up the two purchases … and hook it on to the Tahoe and GMC.”

The legislation said the $437,646 total was primarily because of the purchase of police vehicles in 2004 and 2005.

Last week, several Toledo councilmen blasted Mayor Mike Bell with accusations that they were misled into authorizing the purchase of two sport utility vehicles.

Councilman George Sarantou, chairman of council's finance committee, said City Auditor Scott Wheelock correctly pointed out to the committee Thursday that there was no real need for the legislation.

“I think the administration discovered their numbers were in error ... and they did not take into account the beginning balance of that vehicle replacement fund in 2004,” Mr. Sarantou said. “Clearly there was no need for this legislation and there is no question, regarding the two SUVs, that this council was misled.”



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