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Konop quits planning board

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A squabble among Lucas County commissioners yesterday over reappointments of two members of the county Planning Commission ended in impasse and resulted in Commissioner Ben Konop announcing he's "giving up" his seat on the planning body.

"I am voluntarily stepping down, sacrificing my position on the Lucas County Planning Commission and opening this up for the community to apply," he said at an afternoon news conference.

He and Commissioner Pete Gerken sparred earlier at the commissioners' meeting over resolutions to reappoint Donald Mewhort III and Jerry Sawicki III to three-year terms on the planning group.

Mr. Mewhort, of Sylvania Township, president of Midland Title and Escrow Ltd., is the body's chairman. Mr. Sawicki, of Springfield Township, president and chief executive officer of Sawicki Realty, is the vice chairman.

Both have been on the commission since April, 2000.

Mr. Konop said he has no complaints about either man's performance, but said it is time for new voices from other racial, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Also, both Mr. Mewhort, 44, and Mr. Sawicki, 46, attended law school; Mr. Konop said the planning board has enough lawyers.

"We're sort of reappointing the same people," Mr. Konop said. "They all happen to be older white males, to be honest and frank about it."

Of the 11 planning commission members, one is an African-American male and two are white females, including county Commissioner Tina Skeldon Wozniak. Mr. Mewhort and Mr. Sawicki are white.

Mr. Konop, 33, who is white and a lawyer, made similar arguments in February in regard to diversity among the Toledo Lucas County Port Authority's board of directors.

Yesterday he also questioned financial contributions Mr. Mewhort made to Mr. Gerken's election campaigns. Mr. Mewhort has made contributions to both Mr. Gerken's and Mr. Konop's campaigns, although more to Mr. Gerken's.

Mr. Konop later spoke of Mr. Mewhort's title company receiving no-bid contracts for work related to the county's new multipurpose arena, which are legal but have been criticized by Mr. Konop.

Mr. Gerken spoke in favor of reappointing Mr. Mewhort and Mr. Sawicki, saying the two have served their unpaid duties on the planning board well.

"Just because they're white males and lawyers, I don't think that has to count against them," said Mr. Gerken, who also dismissed the notion that he's beholden to campaign contributors.

The commissioners post-

poned a vote on the reappointments until next week at the suggestion of Ms. Wozniak.

Several hours later, Mr. Konop called a news conference to announce that he plans to appoint a full-time alternate to his own seat on the planning commission. He said this appointment represents his "last resort" for ensuring diversity, and that he's accepting applications through March 31.

"I want somebody who represents working-class and middle-class Lucas County," Mr. Konop said, adding he will not tell the person how to vote.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.

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