Mayor’s campaign office lacks necessary permits

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 12

Democratic Mayor Carty Finkbeiner’s re-election campaign has been occupying its headquarters for nearly two months without the required city inspections and city-issued permits, The Blade found yesterday.

The building, at 2140 South Byrne Rd., is being leased for the duration of the campaign from retired marine corps Gen. Walter Churchill, an elder statesman of the local Republican party.

Campaign officials were required by law to submit applications for three permits, undergo a thorough inspection, and ensure the facility meets current building codes.

According to city documents, they did none of them.

“We had no idea we needed to take care of this,” said campaign manager Frank Szollosi. “We assumed the leasing company would deal with it.”

Mr. Szollosi said he applied for the necessary permits yesterday afternoon, an hour after being told by The Blade they were required and two months after they were due.

The Ohio Building Code requires that if a storefront is converted into an office, the building’s occupants must submit a new building permit to the city.

City building inspectors must then check to see whether the building is up to code, including compliance with rules on accessibility for the handicapped.

The process usually takes two or more weeks, plus whatever time it takes to renovate the building. Then, the business must file for a certificate of occupancy with the city.

By law, only then can a business move into the building.

Until yesterday, none of the paperwork for the Byrne Road facility had yet been filed. The campaign moved to the building in early June.

According to city documents, the building’s stated use has not changed since 1968, when it was declared fit for “store occupancy.” Officials said a campaign headquarters qualified as a change of use from a storefront.

Until 1992, the building housed the Adventure Shop, which sold outdoors and ski equipment. The store went out of business Feb. 9 of that year, and the space has since been used sporadically for fund-raisers, campaigns, and Christmas tree sales.

Anyone found to be have changed the use of a building without the proper permits must pay a $200 penalty, along with the cost of the missing permits, any necessary renovations, and late fees.

Any business must apply for a separate permit before erecting a sign on its property. Mr. Szollosi submitted an application today for the large sign already attached to the front of the headquarters.

Corky Hong, the plans examiner for the city’s division of building inspection, said that in addition, the inspection office could fine retroactively anyone who previously had occupied the building.

This was not the first time the space has been used to house a political campaign. In 1993, mayoral candidate Paula Pennypacker based her efforts there, and said she did not remember ever submitting any permits to the city.

“We just went in and set up shop,” she said.

Her campaign did not officially lease the space from the Churchills, she said, and accepted its use of the site as an in-kind contribution. “It was a gentleman’s agreement,” she said.

The Finkbeiner campaign leased the property in May from Certified Leasing Co., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Churchill Holding Company, which manages the Churchill’s supermarket chain and other family properties.

The current lease has made for strange bedfellows: Mayor Finkbeiner, a Democrat, and 93-year-old General Churchill, a former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party.

“If we’ve got the space, we’ll rent it to somebody,” General Churchill said. “It’s a nice, clean place.”

General Churchill’s son, Walt, Jr., said he didn’t object to the mayor’s use of the space.

“Mayor Finkbeiner tends to be always in the middle of controversy, but he’s gone to bat for small business and grocers a number of times,” he said.

Still, “I was surprised to see we rented it out to him,” he said.

Mayor Finkbeiner did not return phone calls yesterday seeking comment.

Report urging CSB pay hikes is turned down

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

Lucas County commissioners yesterday rejected a fact-finder’s report calling for raises for more than 200 county Children Services board employees, pushing the child welfare agency one step closer to a strike.

Commissioners voted unanimously to reject 3 per cent general wage increases for union caseworkers, secretaries, and nurses.

Wages for all three groups are part of a step system that increases pay with experience.

“Their current salaries are near the top of their field in this area,” said Reuben Bumpus, president of the Children Services board. “We want to eliminate some of the step increases.”

Union representatives said they likely will file by the end of today the documents necessary to go on strike.

“I’m very disappointed, but I’m not surprised,” said Sally Powless, a staff representative for the Professionals Guild of Ohio, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 544.

She said the union will submit a strike notice within the next two business days.

By law, the union cannot go on strike until 10 days after it submits notice.

In a Wednesday night meeting, the Children Services board rejected the same three fact-finder recommendations. The board is appointed by the county commissioners.

“We were very pleased that they affirmed the decision the board came to,” Mr. Bumpus said. “We feel the employees are paid very well.”

Both the Children Services Board and the county commissioners approved the fact-finder’s recommendations on contracts for five CSB attorneys, but the attorneys themselves had earlier rejected the report.

The fact-finder recommended that they not be added to the step system.

By rejecting the proposal, the attorneys will now be part of future negotiations aimed at avoiding a strike.

Ms. Powless said those negotiations might begin again on Wednesday at the earliest.

Mr. Bumpus said he did not know of any previous strikes in the agency’s history.

“In the event of a strike, I hope the community will rally around us to keep the children’s interests highest,” he said.

The union represents about 200 caseworkers, five nurses, 10 secretaries, and five attorneys.

The contracts for caseworkers, nurses, and secretaries expired in April; the attorneys are seeking their first collective-bargaining agreement.

A beginning caseworker makes $469.35 for a 35-hour week. After 12 years of experience, the salary rises to $708.05 a week.

Seminar declares foster care crisis in county, nation

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 16

“Foster care is in crisis in this county and this country.”

That was the verdict of Robin Reese, the coordinator of placement services for Lucas County Children Services at a conference on foster care held yesterday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

“Oftentimes, we don’t give children the attention they need until they’re lost,” she said.

The seminar was sponsored by Mercy College of Northwest Ohio and attended by more than 100 foster parents, county officials, and social workers.

The event was filled with stories about the sad shape of the children they see daily. One mentioned a 14-year-old girl who was HIV-positive, had been sexually molested by at least three members of her family, and was a drug addict. She was not receiving treatment for either the virus or her drug problem.

John Hollingsworth, Children Service’s director of protective services, said he acknowledges the problems in the system. “In my opinion, in child welfare, there is a limited commodity of common sense,” he said.

Blade staff writer Sam Roe said Children Services and other government agencies should be more forthcoming with information about publicized cases, such as 15-year-old Vicente Guevara, who will stand trial soon for the unprovoked killing of a 7-Eleven clerk.

“I know confidentiality is a concern. There is also a public good in accountability,” Mr. Roe said.

Mr. Hollingsworth said he agreed some information should be released, but noted that he was limited by law. “I didn’t write the law. Until it’s changed, I have to follow the rules,” he said.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Charlotte Lopez, the 1993 Miss Teen USA and a former foster child. Miss Lopez spent her childhood in six foster homes and a group home before winning the title. Since then, she has traveled across the country advocating foster-care reform.

She said children should be able to learn where their biological siblings are living. She was separated from her brother as a toddler and did not know where he was until Christmas, 1993.

“He had been 20 minutes away from me my entire life,” she said. “Finding out was devastating.”

Miss Lopez said children should have the right to examine the files children services keeps on their lives. “It’s their life, after all,” she said.

Mr. Hollingsworth said children have that right in Lucas County.

Miss Lopez said her last foster parents were strict fundamentalist Christians. Because her birth mother was known to dabble in Satanic activity, she said they believed Miss Lopez might be a child of the Devil.

Ex-Bedford resident hopes winds carry him home to Hawaii

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

For most people, going to Hawaii means shelling out some cash for a ticket, heading to the airport, and sitting in a cramped airplane seat for a few hours. And the food? A rock-hard roll and all the peanuts you can eat.

For Steve Fisher, going to Hawaii means shelling out some cash for a custom-built windsurfer, heading to the beach, and spending a month hoping for a good winds. And the food? Thirty days of granola and all the fish he can catch.

This morning, Mr. Fisher, 37, a former Bedford Township resident, is expected to leave California on a 2,500-mile sail to his home in Hawaii. Windsurfers have twice crossed the Atlantic, but this would be the first time anyone has crossed the Pacific to Hawaii.

Mr. Fisher has been windsurfing almost 20 years, since his days on Lake Erie in 1979. After graduating from Bedford High School in 1978, he eventually moved to Hawaii, where he’s been ever since.

In response to the question he’s most asked – “What, are you nuts?” – Mr. Fisher says he understands the risks involved and knows he might join the food chain below his usual rank. Twelve years ago, two Maui residents tried the same journey in a catamaran sailboat and were never seen again.

“Am I worried? No,” he said. “Do I accept the fact it could happen? I know I’m not going to live forever. If you walk into an undesirable part of Toledo, you run the same risk.

“I don’t want to just live. I want to excel.”

He plans to cover about 80 miles a day. His longest trip to date has been 300 miles around the Hawaiian Islands.

He has packed a propane stove, a desalinator to make sea water drinkable, and a Walkman.

They’ll all fit in an 18-foot-long, 250-pound windsurfer specially made for this trip. Mr. Fisher said it cost more than $4,000 and is virtually unsinkable.

He plans to sail about 10 hours a day, resting and enjoying the view for the rest of the time.

He’ll follow prevailing trade winds the whole way, so he expects the trip to take about a month. Just in case of slow winds, he’s packed enough food for 40 days.

He had the idea for the trip about 10 years ago and first planned to go in 1990, but he couldn’t find a corporate sponsor to fund his trek. Undaunted, he began raising his own money.

Mr. Fisher has taken six months off from his job as a time-share marketer to train and build his vessel, Da Slippa II, and he says it’s better in every way than the one he built seven years ago.

“It’s lighter, stronger, longer, and faster.”

Not too surprisingly, Mr. Fisher’s family in Toledo has tried to discourage him from making the trip. But he says their efforts are futile.

“They can’t stop me. So they’ve got to support me.”

If he makes it home to Hawaii, what will await him?

“Babes and a bubble bath on the beach,” said Mr. Fisher, who obviously is not married. And perhaps an even greater goal: a California-to-Japan voyage.

Silverman enters school board race

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

Attacking Governor Voinovich’s plans for funding education yesterday, former Toledo city councilman and mayoral candidate Peter Silverman formally announced his candidacy for a seat on the Toledo board of education.

Standing on the steps outside One Government Center, Mr. Silverman, a Democrat, said his campaign will make five guarantees:

* Constantly improving test scores in core subjects.

* Push for all-day kindergarten statewide.

* A cap of 15 students per class through third grade.

* Tougher discipline.

* Money to train teachers.

“I’ve been involved in government a long time. I know how to make things happen,” he said.

The candidate, who told The Blade in May of his intention to run, focused his remarks on the statewide restructuring of education funding ordered by the Ohio Supreme Court. Members of the Toledo school board have no direct role in determining such policy.

Governor Voinovich has proposed a $1.1 billion tax increase to fund education, a proposal that Mr. Silverman called unfair.

“The governor is saying, ‘I’ll increase your taxes $1 billion and promise nothing in return, but trust me – I’m your government,'” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Silverman instead called for a statewide property tax for education.

He said he believes the governor may have made his proposal intentionally unappealing to the public to maintain the status quo.

A constitutional amendment under consideration in Columbus would prevent the Ohio Supreme Court from ruling on the system of educational funding.

“I hate to think it, but it seems that the governor might be acting deliberately underhanded,” he said.

Though school board members have no role in making many of the decisions that he discussed, Mr. Silverman said the board can play a role in education reform.

“In Columbus, they point the boat in a certain direction, but we’re the ones who have to row the boat,” he said.

Mr. Silverman said he has chosen to send his son to the private Hebrew Academy instead of Toledo’s public schools.

The decision was based on his desire for a religious education for his son.

“I think the public schools do a fine job today,” he said, “but they need to focus with laser-like intensity on the core subjects.”

In 1993, Mr. Silverman was the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for mayor but failed to make it out of the primary. Carty Finkbeiner won the general election.

Mr. Silverman has been endorsed by the Lucas County Democratic Party. The election is Nov. 4.

Couple guilty in abuse of dogs

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 5

SWANTON — A couple were found guilty of 12 counts of animal abuse here yesterday.

Mary Barker, 40, and Jose Vasquez, 63, were convicted of not providing sufficient shelter, exercise, and air circulation for six animals, three of which they kept in stacked crates in a closed closet. The Swanton couple operated Mary and Joe’s Petland on Airport Highway, where they sold dogs with forged veterinary records and pedigrees, the court found.

“We’re very pleased with the outcome,” prosecutor Colin McQuade said.

The defendants vowed to appeal the decision. “I am totally in shock about the way they lie,” Ms. Barker said.

Jurors said their conclusions were reached without much contention. “We stuck to the facts,” juror David Hardy said. “They just didn’t take care of those dogs, and she misled people.”

Added juror Jim Baker: “They just shouldn’t keep dog cages in closets. That got to me.”

Mr. Baker blamed the abuse on the size of the pet store. “Too many dogs, too fast. It just got out of hand.” Officials seized 55 dogs from the store in December. The couple were convicted of keeping 10 German Shepherd puppies in a single small travel case.

The fate of the dogs is undecided. They are under the care of the Fulton County Humane Society, but Mr. McQuade said there was a possibility some might be returned to the couple. The society has filed suit seeking payment from the couple for its expenses, and it is unlikely the dogs’ fate will be determined until the suit is settled, he said.

Ms. Barker said she was at the center of a government conspiracy to kill animals. “It’s the dog pound people who kill dogs, not me,” she said. “They don’t like me saving what they kill.”

She accused authorities of purposefully killing some of her dogs “so it would look good for them” and their case. She has said the dogs had died of “homesick ness.”

Accused of altering sections of veterinary records to make dogs appear healthier than they were, Ms. Barker said, “I probably just misspelled parts and whited them out. I’m not the greatest speller.”

She hopes to reopen a breeding business, she said, although she wants to deal exclusively in small dogs.

Mr. McQuade said he had no sympathy for the defendants because their actions extended beyond animal cruelty. Ms. Barker and Mr. Vasquez were also found guilty of tax evasion and theft charges. In addition, Ms. Barker was convicted of resisting arrest but cleared of obstructing official business.

“This was a scam operation, not just abuse,” Mr. McQuade said.

The couple face sentencing July 30. All of the charges were misdemeanors, but Mr. McQuade said the couple could face up to 10 years in prison if their sentences are served consecutively.

“I think some jail time is appropriate,” he said.

Jury begins deliberations in pair’s animal-abuse trial

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

SWANTON — The animal-abuse case here is in the hands of a jury.

Both sides concluded their cases yesterday in the trial of Mary Barker and Jose Vasquez, who run Mary and Joe’s Petland on Airport Highway. They are each charged with 12 counts of animal abuse. Officials claim they starved their dogs, packed them into closed closets, and left them exposed in burning sunshine and winter snow. They are charged with falsifying veterinary records and bloodline documentation to save money.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Jeff Lydy called his clients victims of overzealous police work. He said the many illnesses from which his clients’ dogs suffered could afflict even the best cared-for animal.

“Dogs get worms,” he said, picking one example. “It’s a fact.

“We’ve all seen dogs with worms and these other ailments.”

He showed the jury seven photos of kennels with filled food and water dishes to indicate his clients did feed their dogs; he said the prosecution was latching on to a isolated incidents.

In response, prosecutor Colin McQuade said the accusations were part of a clear pattern. “Mistake after mistake after mistake are not mistakes. They’re habits.”

He also noted that the cages shown in Mr. Lydy’s photos did not house the dogs for which the defendants were being charged.

After a lunch break, Judge Robert Saxer gave more than 30 minutes of instructions to the jury, carefully detailing each charge. The six men and two women deliberated for more than three hours, then adjourned for the night.

Ms. Barker and Mr. Vasquez face charges of theft and income tax fraud. In addition, Ms. Barker is charged with resisting arrest and obstructing official business.

The trial will enter its fifth day this morning when the jury resumes deliberation.

Trustees approve ‘small’ 4.6% raise for tuition at UT

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 19

As it has every year for the last decade, the University of Toledo’s board of trustees approved a budget yesterday that raises tuition for students.

Beginning in the fall, undergraduates will pay 4.6 per cent more than they did last year, an increase several trustees criticized as too small.

UT President Frank Horton said the tuition increase was $210 per term below the assumptions made by the Ohio Board of Regents. “We are not up to the OBOR levels,” he said, “but we think this is a good balance.”

Officials said not raising tuition to those levels will cost the university $4 million a year in lost revenue, and some said the cost to students should be even higher.

“If our budget comes back at the end of the year unbalanced, this loss will hurt us for years to come,” said trustee Ronald Langenderfer.

Nationwide, college tuition has outstripped inflation since the 1970s. This year, every four-year public university in Ohio is raising tuition more than the inflation rate.

The largest increase is at Miami University, where tuition is being raised 6 per cent.

Had UT’s tuition increased only at the rate of inflation – that is, the average rate of all other consumer goods – next year’s tuition and fees would be nearly $800 less than today’s.

The budget projects a $10.7 million increase in revenue, more than half of it from tuition increases. It assumes a 3 per cent decline in enrollment, in part because of the university’s switch this fall from a quarter system to a semester system.

Since semesters are longer and more costly than quarters, many students crammed in their work before the switch. As a result, May’s commencement was the largest in UT history, with 3,312 students graduating.

The $188 million budget is projected to balance. It invests $1.2 million in computers for student use and $1.5 million in scholarships. Nearly all employees will receive 4 per cent raises, including administrators, campus police, and clerical workers.

Dr. Horton’s salary will be determined separately from budget negotiations, but he is contractually guaranteed an annual raise equal to or greater than what the university’s employees receive.

He makes $174,408 a year and receives a house in Ottawa Hills and a car as part of his compensation package.

Postal service to phase out Jeeps; Minivans are replacing small, aging, rough-riding vehicles

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

It’s the end of an era, there’s no doubt about it.

The squat white Jeeps that have carried Toledo’s mail since the 1960s will soon rest in peace alongside milk trucks, slide rules, and rotary phones – features of everyday life pushed aside by advancing technology.

U.S. Postal Service officials in Detroit will announce this morning that they are phasing out the nationwide fleet of 27,000 Jeeps and replacing them with that bastion of suburbia, the minivan. Nine thousand Ford Windstars and Aerostars will flood the streets of America this summer, with more to come over time.

Northwest Ohio has 70 to 80 of the Jeeps, according to customer services coordinator Ron Metzger. About 25 of those are in Toledo.

Within the next two months, 70 vans will take their place. The first of them have arrived to rave reviews from carriers.

“They’re terrific,” said James Ellis, a special-delivery messenger and driving instructor. “They’re excellent – much more pleasant to drive than those old Jeeps.”

For an American icon, postal Jeeps are in pretty sorry shape. The government stopped buying them in 1983, so the fleet is at least 14 years old.

Carrier Kathy Schultz said most at her station date from 1973, making parts almost impossible to find.

The old Jeeps were hardly models of safety. Top-heavy, they could topple easily at high speed and slide in winter weather. Many had mufflers so loud they could drown out conversation. And they were notoriously rough-riding.

“The vans are so much better than the old Jeeps,” Mr. Ellis said. “My kidneys thank me that I don’t have to drive one of those things.”

The amount of mail the postal service carries has risen steadily in the 1990s. The new vans will have enough room to easily carry the vacuum cleaners, barbells, and stationary bikes that some people send through the mail.

“One guy in Germany sent every thing he owned back home, six or seven boxes at a time,” Ms. Schultz said. “In the Jeeps, we would have had to deliver it all over two or three days, because we couldn’t fit it all in the back. In the van, we can do it in one trip.”

Postal officials said fewer trips could speed up a carrier’s route.

The Jeeps simply weren’t built for speed. “They all had a big sticker on them, ‘advising’ drivers not to go past 50 miles an hour,” Mr. Ellis said. “They scared me.”

“It’s sad to see an era go,” Mr. Metzger said. “That’s what I drove when I was a carrier. … But times have changed.”

For those who have sat behind a Jeep’s wheel for years, switching to a minivan – whose steering wheel is on the left, not the right – takes adjustment. “The first few times I drove it, I went to the wrong door,” Ms. Schultz said.

But for most drivers, the cushioned seats and working shocks make up for a little confusion.

Holiday weekend crackdown on drunken drivers nets 49

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

July 4 didn’t mean independence for 49 Toledo and area residents arrested on alcohol and drug charges over the weekend.

They were cited as part of Operation Holiday Zero Tolerance, a crackdown on drunken drivers by the Toledo Liquor Enforcement Office.

“It was a real success, no doubt about it,” said Earl Mack, the agent in charge of enforcement operations.

The liquor enforcement agents spent the weekend in unmarked cars, rolling down area streets and highways in search of underage drinkers and other alcohol offenders. When they saw a suspicious vehicle, agents radioed to the Ohio Highway Patrol or local sheriff’s departments, who moved in to make the arrests.

By weekend’s end, 49 people had been charged with a total of 62 crimes, most first-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Seven bars and stores – six in Toledo and one in Fremont – were charged with the sale of alcohol to minors and other counts.

“We’re out there doing our best to assist in enforcement,” Mr. Mack said.

This was the liquor office’s first holiday roundup, but it plans similar efforts for Labor Day weekend and other holidays. Seventeen people died on Ohio roads over the weekend, compared with 19 last year.

While most arrests were in Toledo, 22 were in surrounding towns, including 11 in Fremont. Five of those arrests occurred Saturday, when five minors ranging in age from 12 to 17 were arrested at the Village Way Daywood Apartments, Fremont, on alcohol and drug charges. Officials said a 12-year-old boy was charged with possession of beer and marijuana.