School-funding issue is dividing husband and wife

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 8

The Kirby family – wife Kathy and husband Albert – came away from last night’s Town Hall Forum more certain than ever how they’ll vote next week.

Trouble is, he’s voting yes; she’s voting no.

With eight panelists throwing out contradictory facts and figures – along with a healthy dose of their personal opinions – it’s not difficult to see how the Kirbys could draw different conclusions.

“We’ll sit down and hear each other’s arguments, but I’m going to vote my conscience,” Mr. Kirby said. “We’ll cancel each other out.”

Mrs. Kirby is working toward her master’s degree in education at Bowling Green State University, and she has a term paper on Oh io’s school-funding system due tonight.

After studying the issues for months, she believes Issue 2 would place an inordinate hardship on Ohio’s poor and might not solve the problem of fair distribution of education funding statewide.

“I still have a lot of questions,” she said. “I’m not sure the final result would be a better education for our students.”

But Mr. Kirby, who works in behavioral modification for Toledo Public Schools’ students at Linques Neighborhood Center, was convinced by state Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee) that the issue’s many questions are outweighed by the extra funding for schools. He had been undecided.

“I feel that it would put more money into education,” he said. “I trust Representative Olman on that.”

Does that mean he doesn’t trust his wife?

“Well, we’re going to have our disagreements,” he admitted.

Others who listened in on the dialogue last night said they have plenty of additional information to think about, but most said they thought the anti-issue forces did a better job of making their case.

Some reacted strongly when Ron Marec, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, laid out a list of organizations that were for or against the issue. He said supporters were mostly “Columbus-based politicians” and state bureaucrats being extorted for their support, while community groups were in opposition.

“It did seem that more of your `people-type people’ were opposed,” said Toledo Councilwoman Edna Brown, who said she was “waffling” on her vote before last night. Now, after hearing Mr. Marec’s fiery rhetoric, she said she’ll vote no.

Several singled out state Sen. Linda Furney (D., Toledo), who has advocated an alternative plan that would widen the base of taxable goods in Ohio, while raising the sales tax by only a half a cent.

Mr. Kirby said he was swayed a bit by Ms. Furney’s argument that raising sales taxes and lowering property taxes would unfairly affect renters, who would get no property-tax relief and still get a sales tax increase, even though many renters are in a worse po sition than homeowners to pay more.

Mr. Kirby was extremely upset by that.

“I was very impressed with the senator,” said Amy Fenster, a Bryan high school social studies teacher who asked a question at the forum and opposed Issue 2.

Fuming council members attack the administration and each other

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 13

In a fiery, confrontational Toledo council meeting last night, members ripped into the city administration and, sometimes, each other about withholding information.

Councilman Gene Zmuda found himself in the center of two of the most contentious disputes.

The first battle occurred when the administration introduced a last-minute ordinance to begin eminent domain proceedings against U.S. Reduction Co. It has a facility on North Toledo land targeted for the new Jeep plant, and the land must be cleared by August for construction to begin.

But one of council’s pet peeves this year has been these last-minute ordinances. Members say that the rushed items don’t give them time to make good decisions.

“It’s a major point in the relationship between council and the administration,” Mr. Zmuda said.

He initially convinced most council members. When council voted to allow the ordinance to be considered, only two council members – Mr. Zmuda and Rob Ludeman – voted no.

But that was enough to stop the ordinance. Council rules require nine “yes” votes for that procedure. Councilman Bob McCloskey was absent last night, and Councilman Peter Gerken, a Jeep employee, abstains on all votes involving his employer. That left only eight “yes” votes, and some angry, confused looks from council members.

Council President Peter Ujvagi gave the two naysayers a chance to change their mind, and paused in anticipation of a motion to reconsider. It didn’t happen.

That is, until the end of the meeting, more than an hour later. In the meantime, Mr. Zmuda had spoken to a city attorney and become convinced the U.S. Reduction ordinance was indeed an emergency. He moved to reconsider the previous vote; this time, all 10 members voted yes.

Just a few minutes before, Mr. Zmuda had been at the center of another dispute, this one over municipal power.

Council had decided not to act on an ordinance that would have set up a city power company to compete with Toledo Edison.

Then, Mr. Zmuda proposed his own last-minute piece of legislation – a resolution that would have acknowledged the city’s right to create a power company.

From the discussion that followed, it became clear that Mr. Zmuda had discussed the resolution with several council members before the meeting. That infuriated Mr. Gerken, who chairs council’s utilities committee.

“I take umbrage at that,” said Mr. Gerken, who has clashed with Mr. Zmuda on a variety of issues. “It would have been much more gentlemanly of you to speak to me about this resolution.”

It also angered first-term Councilman Louis Escobar, who accused his colleagues of keeping some members out of the loop.

“I don’t like bullying, no matter where it comes from,” he said. “There are certain people on council who seem to know a lot, and others who do not.”

Mr. Ujvagi appealed for calm and proposed that Mr. Zmuda’s resolution should be considered, but not acted upon. With only Mr. Escobar dissenting, council approved that course.

Other action:

* Marsha Serio, the city’s only female director, will have her own personal secretary, council decided. Earlier in the day, the five female members of council said they did not believe the matter was the result of sexism.

* Council voted unanimously to approve St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center’s request to build two pedestrian walkways over Cherry Street. The bridges will connect the hospital to its expanded outpatient center.

* Council postponed action on a proposal to convert the Toledo Edison steam plant downtown into an upscale apartment building.

Yeast magnate’s offer could give rise to museum

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 15

It’s likely Toledo has never received $102,000 from a yeast magnate for some carved wax.

But that’s the odd prospect council members will face today, when they decide whether to sell off the less interesting part of an art collection to pay for a museum to display the remainder.

“Most of what we’re selling is boring, I’ll tell you that,” said Greg Knott, an Old West End resident who is helping with the sale.

The unusual objects being sold are carved wax sculptures, one of many quasi-artforms collected by the late Toledo real estate agent Laurel Blair. His other, much greater passion was lithophanes, a Victorian form in which images were engraved onto one side of a sheet of porcelain.

Mr. Blair collected millions of dollars worth of lithophanes, easily the largest collection in the world, and in 1993, a few months before he died, he gave the collection to the city with the assurance that it would be displayed.

That hasn’t happened yet, but the collection’s advisory board has found a future home in the Toledo Botanical Gardens. The last hurdle is paying for display cases.

So city leaders are trying to sell off the carved wax sculptures, considered secondary to the main collection, to pay for the museum’s final touches.

The sculptures were appraised by Sotheby’s of New York City and Christie’s of London, but they eventually found a buyer right here in Ohio: Cincinnati’s Charles Fleischmann, of the Fleischmann’s Yeast empire. Mr. Fleischmann was traveling in Switzerland yesterday and could not be reached for comment, but Mr. Knott said he is a longtime wax aficionado.

Among the 400 items for sale: a life-sized model of a male cadaver (nicknamed “Anatomy Man” by city officials) and dozens of tiny models of kings and queens.

If council approves the sale today, Mr. Fleischmann will pay $102,000 – and the museum could open up in the botanical garden sometime later this year.

In other business, council will consider:

* Spending $500,000 for infrastructure improvements at the Toledo Edison steam plant. A group of Cleveland developers has proposed an $8.2 million renovation of the 103-year-old plant into an upscale apartment complex and riverfront restaurant.

Administration officials are pushing the project but, in the last few months, at least six of council’s 12 members have said they oppose it. City officials said the ordinance likely would be sent to a committee for further consideration.

* Creating a municipal power company as an alternative to Toledo Edison. Some companies considering relocating to Toledo have complained that Edison’s high electric rates discourage them, so some city leaders are urging the creation of a utility, to be called Toledo Public Power, offering lower rates.

Whether council acts on the proposal may depend on whether Edison officials can reach an agreement to provide energy to Steel Dynamics, Inc., a steel minimill considering locating a facility in East Toledo.

* Approving two pedestrian bridges St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center wants to build across Cherry Street to main building to its expanded outpatient center.

The hospital hopes to have the bridges, which will be between Yates and Mark streets, completed by June, 1999.

Paving the way for Jeep factory makes for bumpy emotional road

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 1

Phyllis Knopp speaks of her neighborhood in the past tense.

“It was a great place to live. The people were friendly. They helped one another out. The kids could play in the street.”

Most of her neighborhood is still there, but the clock is ticking. Mrs. Knopp lives on Cecilia Avenue, part of a small working-class neighborhood the city is buying and tearing down.

Officials say it’s for a good cause, patching together the land for an expansion of the Stickeny Avenue Jeep plant, but that doesn’t make it any easier for people to leave their homes.

To make matters more traumatic, the neighborhood has turned from a safe haven to a scavenger’s heaven.

“You see lots of people driving through slowly, people looking at the empty houses for something to steal,” said Frank Gordon, who has lived in the neighborhood 34 of his 70 years. He says he’ll go to Michigan in the summer.

Chrysler’s multibillion-dollar presence in Toledo includes $1.2 billion to build a Jeep factory at the company’s Stickney Avenue site and improvements at the aging main plant on Jeep Parkway.

The company will retain 4,900 of Jeep’s 5,600 jobs.

When Chrysler agreed to stay, part of the city’s financial incentive package was that it would hand over the small neighborhood between I-75 and the current Stick ney site for a vehicle storage area and parking.

The city agreed to purchase the homes and businesses along those three short blocks – bounded by Stickney, Cecilia, Elden Drive, and the interstate – demolish the structures, and turn over the land to the auto giant.

The agreement affects 83 homes and 18 businesses.

“It’s been traumatic,” Mrs. Knopp said, sitting in her living room in the neighborhood she’s lived in for 40 years. “For older people, change is hard.”

After a homeowner closes a deal with the city, he has 30 days to salvage whatever he can from his home before it is demolished. Most move out their belongings quickly, but residents say the leftovers have become easy pickings for criminals and delinquents.

The home across the street from Rose Marie Amborski, who has lived in her house for almost 55 years, was vacated a month ago. On April 18, someone broke in, she said. The thief took a steel door the owner had bought for $500 and was going to give to a relative. He stole the toilet.

Ms. Amborski said that in the last week, she has chased away people who wanted to steal cupboards in the kitchen and a small shed in the backyard of the house across the street.

Mr. Gordon said someone broke into an abandoned home two doors down from his house last week.

“They broke the door, then tore apart an air conditioner,” he said. They took the unit’s coil.

Dozens of homes have been left vacant on neighborhood streets, but as of last week, only two had been demolished. Several residents said they see cars of strangers driving through the neighborhood, and they are afraid that their homes are being cased.

In the other homes, owners and neighbors have created their own security systems – from leaving guard dogs to nailing up signs asking vandals to stay away.

“When they hit that house [across the street], I was mad,” Ms. Amborski said. “I put up signs on the windows to keep them away.”

She said her biggest worry wasn’t for the last scraps of property left in abandoned homes – it’s for the residents who remain.

“There are some old women who are alone in their homes here,” she said. “What if there’s no lights on the house and some criminal goes in there at night?”

Residents say they wish police were more active in the neighborhood to keep the scavengers away.

Toledo Police Capt. Derrick Diggs said he was unaware of looting problems in the neighborhood and that police have not scheduled any special patrols in the area.

“If it’s happening, [the residents] are not reporting it,” Captain Diggs said.

People still in the neighborhood have begun to serve as their own ad hoc security service. Several said they haven’t been able to sleep at night since their negotiations with the city began, so they spend their waking time watching for scavengers in the dark.

“Since they’ve told us we had to leave, I haven’t rested since,” Mr. Gordon said. “It’s made me physically sick.”

Most homeowners in the neighborhood, though, say they have been treated well by the city, getting prices close to what they think is fair market value for their homes. Councilwoman Edna Brown, whose district includes the neighborhood, said she hasn’t got ten any significant complaints from her constituents.

When they began negotiations, city officials said they expected to pay between $15,000 and $60,000 for each property, and they say they’ve mostly met that target.

Chrysler set a deadline of December, 1999, for the city to turn over its residential land. Two parcels of industrial land have an earlier deadline, one in July, 1998.

The city is ahead of that schedule. Bob Reinbolt, the city’s Jeep project coordinator, said he expects all the industrial land will be acquired within a week or so, and more than half of the neighborhood’s homeowners have settled with the city. He said he expects the rest will be completed by the end of July.

But just because homeowners seem willing to make a deal with the city doesn’t mean they’re happy about it. Many residents, particularly older ones, are upset they will have to leave their paid-for homes for a mortgaged house in an unfamiliar part of town.

Sharon McQueary bought her home in October, just a few months before she was told she’d have to leave. Last week, she was holding a garage sale to get rid of old baby clothes – anything to make it easier to pack.

`I was mad when I heard the news,” she said. “Three months here, and they say, `Oh, we’re stealing your house.”‘

She said she won’t be staying in Toledo. She’s planning to take whatever she can from the city’s settlement and build a home in Ottawa County.

“To buy a house like we have in some other part of Toledo might cost $120,000,” she said.

Now that the loss of their homes is a foregone conclusion, the most important decision left for some residents is to decide how quickly to get out.

Mr. Gordon said he’ll stay until July 17, the last day he can stay under his agreement with the city. Ms. Amborski said she’ll leave when she finds a new place, but said she isn’t in a rush.

Linda Martz, Mrs. Knopp’s daughter, asks the point of staying any longer than necessary.

“Who wants to stay here? What kind of protection do you have? It’s kind of scary seeing strange people walking around looking in houses.”

On one abandoned garage, a departed neighbor has struggled for a more optimistic tone. “Good luck!,” a message reads in spattered white paint. “God bless us all! Keep praying! So long!”

Obituary: Carl Florian

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

Carl Florian, a World War I veteran who ran his family’s insurance business for more than 70 years, died Saturday in St. Luke’s Hospital, Maumee. He was 99.

He was born and raised in Toledo, his son Jack said, attending St. John’s High School and St. John’s College. As World War I approached conclusion, he enlisted in the Army and trained at Camp Perry in Port Clinton.

But the war ended before he saw action.

In 1907, his father founded the Florian Insurance Agency. When Carl was in his early 20s, he took control of the company. It was a job – and a title, president – he would keep for more than 70 years, until his retirement in 1994.

“He was a hard-working man,” his son said. “He was demanding of his employees because he want ed the best service given.”

After he relinquished control of day-to-day affairs to his son and grandsons, he still showed up at the office every day.

“He had built that business up for his entire life,” his son said. “He took pride in being a good, honest insurance agent and giving people a little extra help.”

Outside the office, he spent much of his time on the docks of the Maumee River, enjoying his boat. He rarely took the boat out on the water, perhaps once or twice a year he ventured to Put-in-Bay, but he loved the camaraderie of dockside life.

“Back in those days, they’d just sit at the boat and talk,” his son said. “It was a social gathering.”

He had a variety of leadership roles in area boating clubs, including commander and head historian of the Toledo Power Squadron, rear commander of the U.S. Power Squadron, president of the Detroit Navigators Club, and vice-president of the Toledo Navigators Club.

He was a charter member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church and attended services often until advancing age made it too difficult.

Surviving are three children, Jeanne Nielsen, Jack Florian, and Marjorie Ronau; 39 grandchildren, and a great-grandson.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Coyle Funeral Home, 1770 South Reynolds Rd., where the body will be from 6 to 9 p.m. tomorrow and where a Scripture service will be held at 8 p.m.

The funeral Mass will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 2255 Central Grove Ave., at 10 a.m. Wednesday, with burial afterward at Calvary Cemetery.

The family requests that tributes be to the church building fund.

Council to weigh raises for executives

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 11

How much is a city commissioner or director worth?

If the Toledo council passes an ordinance tomorrow, the minimum and maximum salaries for most city attorneys and executives would increase by up to $9,500 a year in some cases.

“It would get Toledo more in line with other, comparable cities,” said Marsha Serio, the city’s human resources director.

A top city executive, such as a department head, makes a maximum of $87,500 a year now. The ordinance would raise that to $92,500.

A city attorney at the second level of experience – the L-2 designation – makes up to $70,000. That would go to $79,500.

Ms. Serio said Toledo historically has paid its top executives less than other cities. She said in a survey of comparable positions in Toledo, Dayton, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, salaries here were at or near the bottom for most positions.

The proposed salary adjustments will put Toledo “around midscale for Ohio,” she said.

But District 6 Councilwoman Jeanine Perry said comparing Toledo to larger cities like Columbus and Cleveland is inappropriate.

“That’s not comparing apples to apples,” she said. “We’ve got to take a closer look. I think money is only one of many factors in attracting competent, talented people.”

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has argued that the relatively low pay has hurt Toledo in luring top talent to city management. He cited the $87,500-a-year salary ceiling last month when he outlined the difficulties in hiring a chief of staff for the mayor’s office.

Other items on the council’s agenda tomorrow:

* A repeal of the ordinance allowing a zone change for a controversial Home Depot store on Secor Road just north of Central Avenue. Opponents of the store say the home improvement store would create swarming traffic and hurt the neighborhood. They have sued the city for what they called irregularities in the way the city pushed through the rezoning.

On March 17, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge James Bates ruled that the rezoning process was conducted in a “potentially unlawful manner” and temporarily blocked the store’s construction.

The city law department has asked the ordinance be repealed so the city plan commission and the council’s zoning and planning committee can take the matter up again. This time, he said, the matter will proceed “in accordance with applicable statutes and ordinances.”

* A proposal to raise a number of fines, including double parking, to be raised from $20 to $25; leaving your key in the ignition of an unattended vehicle, from $7 to $20, and “other illegal parking”, $15 to $20.

Those who don’t pay their fines within 15 days would find the price tag even higher under the proposed ordinance. Double parking would leap to $35 while leaving your key in the ignition would go to $30.

* A proposal to raise green fees at the city’s three public golf courses. American Golf Corp., which manages the courses at Detwiler, Ottawa, and Collins parks, has asked that fees be increased by up to $2 within the next year.

At council’s last meeting, Mrs. Perry asked her colleagues to withhold action on the fee hike until the city and American Golf showed her, in writing, how they planned to repair a fence near Summit Street at Detwiler Park.

Mrs. Perry said the fence is covered with overgrowth, rusted away in some parts, and falling apart.

She met with American Golf officials Thursday and is to receive the written plan today. If she does, she said she will support going ahead on the fee vote tomorrow.

* A proposed resolution asking the Ohio Department of Liquor Control to hold a hearing on the liquor license of the La Garza Ballroom, 1623GF1*2Broadway. The license is up for renewal, and Toledo police consider the club one of the city’s most dangerous. Events there generated a total of 80 police reports in 1996 and 1997.

* In a related matter, the council will consider a proposed ordinance to make it easier for the city to revoke dance hall licenses in Toledo.

The broadened powers would allow officials to take away a license if a dance hall is a “source of disorderly or criminal conduct” or “has substantially interfered with public peace or good order in the neighborhood.”

The law says a license can be revoked only if criminal activity occurs in the establishment.

Arbitrator backs firefighters; Union challenged Finkbeiner’s order to inspect city hydrants

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

When Mayor Carty Finkbeiner ordered firefighters to inspect the city’s hydrants – a job the water department had done for decades – he violated the workers’ collective bargaining agreement.

That is the “inescapable conclusion” of Harry Graham, the Solon, O., arbitrator who sided yesterday with the firefighters’ union, the International Association of Firefighters Local 92, in their grievance against the city.

Mr. Graham ordered the city to stop making hydrant inspection the job of firefighters, a move Local 92’s attorney applauded.

“The mayor painted himself into a corner,” Donato Iorio said. “`To save face in an election year, he decided to drop it off on Local 92.”

A Blade special report in April, 1997, exposed the fact that hundreds of hydrants around the city were broken or in need of repair – in part because a hiring freeze in the city water depart ment had cut inspections to the point that most hydrants were being examined only once every three years.

After The Blade’s report, Mr. Finkbeiner announced that firefighters would begin inspecting the hydrants instead of water department workers.

In the arbitrator’s report, a fire department administrator said the move was “solely due to media attention to the problem.”

Mr. Graham found that the water department workers had historically done a more thorough job of inspecting the city’s 10,000 hydrants than the firefighters were being asked to do, and said that the additional work would qualify as a “great expansion of the duties of firefighters.” Union officials had said the added tasks could take up the bulk of a firefighter’s time for half of every year.

The city, in contrast, argued that the firefighters were not being asked to perform any maintenance work, and said that inspections of other facilities were a regular part of their duties.

Mr. Graham concluded that the changes were significant enough that they had to be negotiated into a contract to be acceptable.

He accused the city of “duping” firefighters by not raising the issue during regular contract negotiations last year.

“The fact of the matter is that the City has unilaterally altered a longstanding, constant, unaltered, feature of the tasks performed by IAFF Local 92 members,” the report stated. “Absent negotiations, it may not do so.”

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, the union representing water department workers, has filed a separate grievance protesting the reassignment of work they had historically performed. That grievance is still pending in arbitration.

“We didn’t want to take the work away from our other unions,” Mr. Iorio said.

Mr. Finkbeiner, who said he has not seen the report, declined comment last night.

Students caught in storms

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 3

At least three Toledo-area high school athletic teams – in Tennessee for spring-break competitions – were caught in the severe weather that swept through Nashville yesterday.

None of the area athletes or their coaches was hurt.

Two Toledo schools, Woodward and St. Ursula, sent their girls’ softball teams to play some of the Volunteer State’s top teams.

“The storm was all around us,” said Dan Smith, Woodward’s coach. “The winds were so strong, it just tore Nashville apart.”

Team members spent the day in their hotel. Mr. Smith woke them at 6 a.m. and told them to lie down between the beds in their rooms and to put mattresses over them in case the windows were blown in. He said one tornado passed about a mile away.

“Some of the girls were scared,” he said.

St. Ursula’s team, which was not entered in the same tournament as Woodward’s, was downtown in a Planet Hollywood restaurant when the downtown tornado struck. They stayed inside and suffered no injuries, restaurant staff reported.

Bowling Green High School’s boys and girls track teams were scheduled to have a meet against Montgomery Bell Academy, a top Nashville prep school. But the weather canceled the event early in the day. And when the worst of the storm hit, the students stayed huddled inside the school.

“One of the two tornadoes went right over the school and touched down down the road,” said Mike Vannett, the school’s athletic director, who did not make the trip.

My father is not a spy, West Toledo man says

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A1

Three months before 50-year-old Douglas Groat was arrested for selling government secrets to two foreign governments, he was in Toledo, playing with his grandchildren.

When Mr. Groat’s son, Shawn, was at work at a glass shop in Perrysburg, the older man watched the two girls, aged 2 and 4, to save his son money on baby-sitting.

It is not the typical image of a turncoat spy, one who the CIA says tried to extort $500,000 from the agency in exchange for his silence and, unsatisfied, leaked information to representatives of two foreign powers.

But that is the image Shawn Groat, 26, of West Toledo, is trying to project of his father, who is in jail facing the death penalty.

“He wouldn’t have done something like this, not to his family,” Shawn Groat said yesterday. “He worked too hard to do that.”

He last spoke to his father about three weeks ago and has been unable to reach him since his arrest Thursday. But he said he knows enough about the case to know his father’s problem with the CIA is less blackmail than frustration about getting retirement money he thinks he is owed.

Shawn Groat offered his version of what he says led to his father’s arrest:

Douglas Groat spent most of his adult life working for the government. He worked for police departments and federal agencies before, one day in 1980, he announced to his family that they were moving to Washington. Shawn was told his dad worked for the U.S. Department of State.

At the CIA, Douglas Groat was a code cracker. His job was to steal and decipher the codes foreign governments use to communicate with one another. He was paid about $70,000 a year.

All was well until 1992, when Special Agent Groat went on a mission – Shawn said he would not say where or with what purpose – and something went wrong. The mission was “compromised,” Shawn Groat said.

After returning from the failed mission, the elder Groat and several others on the mission were asked to take a polygraph test to determine what caused the failure. Mr. Groat refused.

“He knew they’d read it however they wanted,” Shawn Groat said.

He said the other agents failed the test.

Then, because of the polygraph incident, Mr. Groat was put on administrative leave. He continued to receive his full salary but did not report to work.

Then Mr. Groat took a series of jobs, including working for a trucking service in Virginia. He split up with his wife and decided to buy a motor home and roam the country.

For a couple of years, he stayed distant from his family, calling only every few months.

In 1996, he was eligible to receive a pension. When he walked into his office to fill out paperwork, he was fired and told he was being investigated for treason. “The government was just looking for reasons to fire him,” Shawn Groat said.

By this time, he had re-entered his family’s life and began talking regularly to family members while still traveling around the country. He continued to demand his retirement money, to which he claimed he was entitled.

“He was just living off what he had in the bank, and he needed that money,” Shawn Groat said.

He called the CIA offices to plead his case – without success.

Wanting to spend time with his granddaughters, Douglas Groat spent nearly all of November and December, 1997, in Toledo at his son’s house, “just visiting.”

Three weeks ago, the two men talked on the phone. Douglas Groat asked mostly about the divorce Shawn is going through and mentioned he was in Georgia, taking a class on pipeline inspection. A new job could take him near Toledo and his grandchildren.

On Thursday, Douglas Groat went to his office, in one final attempt to collect his retirement. He was arrested.

Shawn learned of the arrest when FBI agents arrived at his home at 10:45 p.m. that night to question him.

Tomorrow night, he’ll leave for Washington to visit his father in jail if authorities allow it.

A CIA spokesman refused to comment on the account.

The son’s version of events is not confirmed by anyone else. But for now, Shawn Groat is more concerned about clearing his father’s name than anything else.

“To know my father, I can’t say what he’s capable of doing,” he said. “But I know he would not sell out the government he had devoted his life to.”

Reworked trash system offered

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page A1

Unlimited garbage pickup would end and curbside recycling would be extended throughout Toledo if city officials accept a plan presented yesterday.

The city-commissioned study of Toledo’s refuse collection operation said the number of garbage workers should be cut in half to save the city millions – $4.5 million by 2005.

The study was completed by the nonprofit Corporation for Effective Government. The group’s previous reports have resulted in the reorganization of many local government agencies.

Its report on Toledo’s refuse system, for which it was paid $50,000, stated that the downsizing of refuse operations can be accomplished without laying off any workers.

“The city of Toledo can and should expect more from our employees,” said David Schlaudecker, who was chairman of the committee that wrote the report.

The 186-page report was commissioned as a result of last spring’s contract dispute between Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Teamsters Local 20, which represents garbage workers.

Part of the agreement was to accept a fact-finder’s recommendation to have the organization look for efficiencies in the city’s solid waste department.

The report recommends a wide range of action, all aimed at making the department more competitive in cost with private industry:

* Leasing a new fleet of mechanized garbage trucks to pick up the city’s trash. The mechanized trucks would eliminate two of the three jobs on most trucks – the two collectors who stand at the rear of the truck and throw garbage bags in.

With the new trucks, the driver would be able to operate a remote arm to lift and dump containers at curbside.

Mechanizing, however, would force Toledoans to restrict what they put out on the curb every week. Under the new system, trucks would pick up only one 90-gallon container from each house.

* Reducing the number of collectors and drivers from 146 to about 70 by 2005. Mr. Schlaudecker said that could be done through attrition and retirement and would not require any layoffs. It could, however, require a handful of workers to be transferred to other positions.

* Offer curbside recycling citywide every two weeks. Only about 20,000 households are served under the program, city officials said.

* Increase hours for workers. The study found collectors work only about 4.6 hours a day, drivers slightly more. The report recommends increasing that to about eight hours a day.

* Institute a safety program for garbage workers to help prevent injuries. Garbage workers make up only 6 per cent of city employees, Mr. Schlaudecker said, but account for 28 per cent of employee injuries.

* Giving department managers and employees greater leeway in making business decisions, including purchasing decisions and accepting bids. That empowerment, coupled with setting up benchmarks to check on the department’s performance, would make the city run trash pickup more like a business would, Mr. Schlaudecker said.

The report says these changes would result in a $4.5 million cumulative savings by 2005 and more than $2 million a year after that.

But the report does not call for outsourcing the entire department to private industry, as some administrators had hinted they wanted last year, when waste management companies submitted bids for service and a third-party consultant concluded that transferring trash pickup to private operation could save the city $6 million over five years.

Mr. Schlaudecker said many of the volunteers working on the study began with the assumption that private operation would be the best option.

But they reached a consensus that the same money-saving efficiencies could be reached in a city department that is under no pressure to make a profit.

“There’s a lot of positive things to be said for having final control of the entire system,” Mr. Schlaudecker said.

He said that once a city outsources garbage pickup and sells off its garbage equipment, returning to city pickup can be too expensive.

Officials with the union and the city withheld judgment on the recommendations until they have time to read the full report.

“I like the idea of greater mechanization,” Mr. Finkbeiner said. “But I will need more time to read the report in its entirety.”

“As far as the total metamorphosis suggested by CEG goes, it’s going to take quite a bit of analysis,” said Greg Kneller, chief steward for Teamsters Local 20.

“It’s an in-depth report. But we’ve got the best service in the state of Ohio, not to mention the country, and that service should be maintained for the citizens who pay for it.”

“As long as workers get reassign ed and no one is losing their job, I think it’s good,” said Councilwoman Wilma Brown. “Some of the ideas are very good.”

The report will go to council members and the mayor, who will determine which of its recommendations they want to make into law. The reports called for the first changes, setting up partnership teams to address high absentee rates, to go into effect in July.

Founded in 1935, CEG is a private, independent research organization specializing in investigating local government systems and issues.