Toledo councilman routinely left water bills unpaid


Though accused of dining and dashing from a Dorr Street bar and restaurant, Toledo City Councilman Tyrone Riley insists he always pays his bills in full.

But a review of city council members’ utility bills shows Mr. Riley over the last two years routinely ran up outstanding water bill balances on rental properties he owns, while his own home’s bills were almost always paid to a zero balance.

Councilman Tyrone Riley
Councilman Tyrone Riley

Mr. Riley’s five rental properties owed the city just under $1,090 combined as of Monday.

Then, on Tuesday, Mr. Riley paid off all of those outstanding charges. He said they were all paid in full on Tuesday “because they were due,” not because he knew The Blade asked to review council members’ utility records.

“It’s a coincidence that you’re asking me about this today,” he told a Blade reporter Wednesday. “And I’m one that really doesn’t believe in coincidences.”

The District 1 councilman said he at times allows bills to go unpaid in order to keep tenants responsible for covering their water fees, which he said is part of their lease-agreement obligations.

The utility is in his name, but the bill is sent to each rental property.

“In some cases, in order to get the tenant’s attention, in order to get the tenant to pay his obligation, sometimes you can’t pay the bill,” Mr. Riley said. “If they fail to pay, then it becomes my obligation.”

Mr. Riley’s bill-paying practices became the subject of public scrutiny this month when a local bar owner filed a complaint with Toledo police alleging the councilman attempted to leave his Dorr Street restaurant July 10 without paying his tab.

Mohamed Mahmoud, who owns Andy’s Sports Bar and Jojo’s Pizza, told police that last week’s incident marked the third time Mr. Riley had dined without paying.

Mr. Riley said the incident at the restaurant was “a complete misunderstanding” and cited a relationship with a previous owner who would allow him to run a tab and bill him for it later. He apologized to Toledoans for his conduct at Andy’s Bar in a statement July 13 and said he paid his outstanding tab.

Toledo police still are investigating the theft complaint, Lt. Kevan Toney said Thursday.

The outstanding water balances Mr. Riley paid on Tuesday had due dates ranging from May 15 to June 27. He also had outstanding utility charges on two properties he no longer owns. He owed $279.75 on a residence that sold in August, 2017, and $607.53 on a property that sold in October, 2014.

The councilman on Wednesday said he was under the impression the charges would be transferred to the new owner and he planned to follow up with the city’s department of public utilities. By Thursday, Mr. Riley had paid the $279.75 outstanding bill.

City records show other council members were regularly up to date on utility their bills, save for Yvonne Harper. She did pay $400 toward a $359.04 balance on Thursday, after a Blade reporter had requested city council members’ water bill records. She now has $40.96 credit listed on her account with the city. Her account history shows she regularly makes payments toward outstanding balances, though she rarely pays them in full.

“I have no explanation why I didn’t pay it in full,” Ms. Harper said. “I just always paid on it. That’s all.”

Ms. Harper, like most council members, only has one utility account in her name, which corresponds to her private residence. In addition to Mr. Riley, councilmen Sandy Spang and Rob Ludeman have utility accounts for rental properties in their names. Records show Ms. Spang and Mr. Ludeman’s water bills were regularly paid in full over the last two years.

Councilmen Cecelia Adams and Nick Komives don’t have city utility bills in their names. Ms. Adams’ water fees are built into her monthly condominium dues, and Mr. Komives lives in a rental property and is not responsible for its water.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.