Mayor says city would help lure Cruiser expansion; Automaker assured of ‘appropriate assistance’

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner said he is willing to provide “any appropriate assistance” to make Toledo the home of the PT Cruiser, DaimlerChrysler’s hot new retro vehicle.

“I don’t want DaimlerChrysler to feel bashful about asking the state of Ohio and the city of Toledo for assistance if they are considering us for a new line” of vehicles, the mayor said yesterday.

Sources familiar with the automaker’s planning process last week said that Toledo’s Jeep plants are among those being considered as an assembly site for the Cruiser, which has been in unexpectedly high demand since its introduction.

The Jeep Parkway plant is considered Toledo’s most likely site for a new line, but Mr. Finkbeiner said the Cruiser could be built in an expansion of the new Stickney Avenue plant.

Friday, a DaimlerChrysler spokesman refused to say whether Toledo is being considered. “We are looking at the market and demand for the vehicle and evaluating whether we need to add more production,” spokesman Trevor Hale said. “No decision has been made.”

The PT Cruiser, once a futuristic concept car, has been a surprise success since its introduction. Its neo-1930s styling has proven popular with consumers. More than 32,000 of the vehicles have been sold through July.

Mr. Finkbeiner said he sent a letter to Robert Eaton, then DaimlerChrysler’s co-chairman, almost a year ago, asking him to consider putting a third line of vehicles in Toledo.

Most Cherokees and Wranglers made worldwide are already assembled in Toledo. The Cherokee is nearing the end of its life cycle and is expected to be replaced with a new vehicle next year.

Earlier this summer, the mayor followed up with a letter to James Holden, the president of DaimlerChrysler’s American arm. “I wanted to remind him that we had stepped up and executed on time and that Toledo would be a perfect fit for either the PT Cruiser or the Varsity,” a four-wheel drive “urban adventure vehicle” introduced as a concept car at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Not long after, Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, informed the mayor that the old Jeep Parkway plant was being studied for possible reuse for the PT Cruiser.

“Every other day, Bruce and I were talking about the possibility,” the mayor said.

Last week, at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, Mr. Finkbeiner met four times with Frank Fountain, DaimlerChrysler’s senior vice president for government affairs. There, Mr. Finkbeiner said he made sure the automaker understood that Toledo is ready to back a deal to bring the new vehicle here.

“We are prepared to do that which is appropriate and prudent to bring this line to Toledo, Ohio,” the mayor said.

If the PT Cruiser does come to Toledo, it would not be the first time Mr. Finkbeiner has offered significant incentives to the automaker.

In 1997, when the then Chrysler Corp. was considering moving its Jeep operations outside Toledo, city and state leaders assembled a $278 million financial incentive package designed to keep Jeep. It included $98 million in state tax credits, $87 million in local property tax breaks, and more than $75 million in out-of-pocket costs to the city and state.

In exchange, the automaker agreed to make a $1.2 billion investment in their local manufacturing facilities, expanding the Stickney plant and modernizing the Jeep Parkway factory, parts of which date to World War I.

Mr. Finkbeiner was criticized by some, including presidential candidate Ralph Nader, for giving DaimlerChrysler too many incentives.

The city’s commitment should help its cause with the PT Cruiser, Mr. Finkbeiner said. “They’ve seen that we can get things done,” he said. “We’re prepared to be as assertive as we were before.”

The mayor said he does not know how seriously other potential sites are being considered, or how big an investment it would take from DaimlerChrysler to bring the new line here. He said Mr. Baumhauer estimated that the PT Cruiser could bring with it 600 to 800 new jobs.

Port leader might get raise; Board is to discuss James Hartung’s salary tomorrow

By Joshua Benton and Michael D. Sallah
Blade Staff Writers

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The president of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority wants a raise.

Port board members will discuss an approximately $7,000 increase in salary for James Hartung at its regular meeting tomorrow.

While several board members say Mr. Hartung deserves more than the $129,960 he is paid now, others are pledging a fight.

“The timing is very, very poor,” board member Jerry Chabler said. “I’m not even in favor of discussing a raise right now.”

Mr. Hartung has led the port authority six years, and his compensation has been the focus of public attention before.

In December, 1998, after voters rejected the renewal of a port authority levy, Mr. Hartung agreed to freeze his salary for a year and pay for more of his own expenses, including a membership at the Inverness Club.

“I’m not insensitive to the public’s concerns,” Mr. Hartung said yesterday. “I care very much. I also know how hard I work and the amount of time I put into my job. I’m not asking for something extraordinary.”

Mr. Hartung is asking for a raise of 5.2 to 6 per cent, which he says would cover increases in the cost of living since his last raise in May, 1998. He has at least one prominent supporter in G. Ray Medlin, Jr., the port board’s chairman. “I think Jim should get a raise,” he said, adding that Mr. Hartung’s voluntary wage freeze and other concessions weigh in his favor.

Several other board members said Mr. Hartung deserves a raise, though he is paid more than every local and state elected official in Ohio.

“I think the scope of his duties more than warrants a wage increase,” said board member Daniel Smith. “I think he’s an excellent president. I think when you compare him with other people in our area, I think he’s certainly deserving.”

Mr. Hartung was hired in 1994 at a starting salary of $100,000. As president, he oversees an agency that runs two airports, a seaport, and is the lead economic development agency for northwest Ohio.

Since his hiring, his salary has grown regularly. In 1995, his pay was boosted to $104,000, along with a $7,500 cash bonus. His salary rose to $110,000 in 1996 and $120,000 in 1997.

Mr. Hartung received his most recent raise in 1998 to bring his salary to $129,960. At the same time, he was granted a three-year employment contract that automatically renews itself annually.

But later that year he agreed to the salary freeze and agreed to pay his own country club fees and his wife’s expenses when she travels with him. He said he “knew we were under fire” at the time because of news reports about the agency’s spending practices, and felt it was in the agency’s best interests that he cap his own pay.

Some board members, like Mr. Chabler, believe that the cap should stay on because the port authority is not performing well enough to give Mr. Hartung a raise. He pointed to a draft report released earlier this month by a consulting firm hired to produce a strategic plan for the agency.

The report, produced by Booz Allen & Hamilton, states that Toledo Express Airport ranked last of eight similar airports in passenger growth over the last 10 years. The airport does not generate enough revenue to cover its expenses.

Mr. Chabler said he met with Mr. Hartung over lunch a month ago to talk about the raise. Mr. Chabler said he indicated at the time that if the raise was to be more than a cost-of-living increase, “I would have problems with it, and most of the board members would have concerns about it.”

With the negative information in the Booz Allen report, Mr. Chabler said he has reservations “even about a cost-of-living increase.

“With those problems, the timing is very poor to talk about a raise for the president,” he said.

Several board members said the airport’s performance will be discussed as part of discussions about Mr. Hartung’s raise.

One other potential problem, Mr. Chabler said, is that the port is involved in contract negotiations with about 25 of its maintenance workers at Toledo Express Airport, who are represented by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Workers Local 2351.

Several board members said a raise for Mr. Hartung could send the wrong message to negotiators and make it more difficult to come to an acceptable conclusion to contract talks.

“In view of the fact that labor negotiations are ongoing, I think they ought to table it now,” board member George Ballas said. “Ray, of all people – in light of his background – should know this.”

Mr. Medlin is a former official with various levels of the carpenters union.

Mr. Medlin said a delay would be transparent and would do no good. “There’s no sense for us to wait and fool the public or fool the airport workers,” he said.

“Our contracts and wages are in keeping with other port authorities our size.”

Mr. Ballas did say, however, that talk of a raise would be appropriate after labor talks conclude. “I don’t think Jim is overpaid,” he said. “I think he’s doing a good job.”

J. Patrick Nicholson, the port board’s vice chairman, said he believes it is “premature” to discuss a raise for Mr. Hartung before the final Booz Allen report is completed, which should be in a few weeks.

The final report, he said, is expected to include information on how the port authority’s salaries compare with those at similar agencies across the country. It also is supposed to include an overall evaluation of the effectiveness of the port’s staff.

“Measuring the performance of the staff is the only way we can measure the performance of the president,” he said. “My own judgment is that we need that information before we get into raises.”

If the report shows local salaries are not above average and that the staff has performed well, Mr. Nicholson said he would be “amenable to some kind of a raise. I think Jim works his heart out.”

Mark Zyndorf, who chairs the port board’s finance committee, said he was unaware of the salary discussions. “I know, in the past, the last raise he received when Jim Poure was [port board] chairman, it was pretty controversial as far as the timing,” Mr. Zyndorf said. “A few of us didn’t think it was appropriate.”

He said any new talk of a raise would mean he “would have to give some time to review and study it and see if it’s appropriate.”

Thomas Palmer, another board member, said the method for evaluating employees like Mr. Hartung is open to improvement, and making those changes could push back the proper time for evaluation of a raise.

“My own view is that Jim has been a very able performer and has been an asset for the port,” he said. “I would expect that we would find that a raise is appropriate for him.”

Board members James F. White, Jr., and David Boston said they didn’t have enough information on the proposed raise to comment. Other board members could not be reached for comment.

The port board will discuss the raise in a closed meeting. Mr. Medlin said the matter then would be go to the human resources committee, which he chairs.

A final vote could be taken at next month’s full board meeting.

“I’m the chairman, but that doesn’t mean the board members are going to agree with me,” Mr. Medlin said. “I can’t tell them what to do. This is an issue that will be taken up by the full board.”

$300,000 United Way theft in Toledo probed

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

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The FBI is investigating a former employee of the United Way of Greater Toledo for allegedly stealing nearly $300,000 in donor funds, officials said yesterday.

“It’s [one] employee who, from my perspective, was breaking the law,” Robert Lucas, the organization’s president, said.

United Way officials would not give the name or many details about the employee who is the focus of the investigation. But law-enforcement officials said the employee, a woman, had access to checks that were coming into the operation.

The irregularities were discovered in February, Mr. Lucas said, when a KeyBank employee noticed that a check made out to the United Way for about $3,000 had been deposited into an individual’s personal bank account.

The bank notified the United Way, which traced the transaction to a clerk in the organization’s financial offices. According to Mr. Lucas, the employee was confronted by superiors and admitted making the false deposit. The employee was fired, he said, but agreed to pay back the money.

But over the next few months, as the bank began an investigation into the accounts, more irregularities began to appear. Bank officials found more misdirected funds, totaling nearly $300,000.

United Way officials notified the Lucas County prosecutor’s office, which asked for a total of the amount taken, according to John Weglian, chief of the office’s special units division.

Earlier this summer, the county prosecutors turned the case over to federal investigators because fraud involving a federally insured financial institution, such as KeyBank, falls under the jurisdiction of federal officials.

Carl Spicocchi, head of the local FBI office, and David Bauer, an assistant U.S. attorney in Toledo, confirmed the investigation. Mr. Bauer said that when the bureau turns over its final report on the findings, his office will make a determination about whether to press charges.

Neither man would estimate when charges could be filed, although Mr. Lucas said he believes the investigation is “just about finished.”

Mr. Weglian said that in the unlikely occurrence that federal prosecutors do not press charges, the county will have the option of doing so.

Mr. Lucas said the suspect had been employed at the United Way for about 18 months and that no other employees are believed to be involved. The missing money has not been located, he added.

United Way officials said they have taken steps to prevent such an apparent theft from occurring again. They hired an outside accounting firm, William Vaughan Co., of Maumee, to analyze the agency’s methods of controlling its funds. The firm made several recommendations, Mr. Lucas said, and all have been adopted.

Mr. Lucas said all the funds stolen will be replaced by a combination of insurance funds and a gift from KeyBank. “Key is working closely with United Way to ensure no United Way funds are lost as a result of the incident,” spokesman Ken Baierl said in a prepared statement.

Neither Mr. Lucas nor KeyBank will release details of how the thefts occurred, in part “to discourage potential copycats,” Mr. Baierl said.

The revelations occur at a particularly vulnerable time for United Way, which will begin its annual fund-raising campaign later this month. Its goal is to raise $15 million.

“We want our donors to know that their money is safe and that we have taken every step necessary to ensure that,” Mr. Lucas said.

Bailey certain to weather storm, ex-colleague Cochran believes

By Michael D. Sallah and Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writers

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ORLANDO, FLA. — Johnny Cochran thinks that one of his colleagues on the O.J. Simpson “Dream Team” deserves a break.

“I’m betting on him,” Mr. Cochran said yesterday this week about F. Lee Bailey, thea famed lawyer whose disbarment has been recommended in Florida. “I think he’s going to come out all right in this.”

Mr. Bailey, who assisted Mr. Cochran in Mr. Simpson’s double- murder trial, is accused of taking millions of dollars worth of stock from one of his clients, convicted drug smuggler Claude Duboc, and refusing to turn it over to federal prosecutors.

“I have a lot of concern for what’s going on with Lee,” Mr. Cochran said. “But you’ve got to know Lee, and he is a survivor.

And he’s going to fight this, I’m sure.”

The charges facing Mr. Bailey could put an end to his legendary legal career. In 1996, he spent more than 40 days in jail on a contempt charge related to the Duboc case. Last month, a Florida judge recommended that Mr. Bailey be disbarred permanently for his actions.

Mr. Cochran is in Orlando to represent several clients suing Disney in an intellectual-property dispute.

He said that the Florida courts should consider Mr. Bailey’s lengthy history as a lawyer-including high-profile clients such as Sam Sheppard and Patricia Hearst – in determining his fate.

“They have got to consider his long career, a great career, and his contributions to the law,” he said.”That’s got to stand for something. He’s been a lawyer for a long time.”

But Mr. Bailey’s history as a lawyer has not always been good. In 1970, a Massachusetts judge censured him and considered disbarment because of Mr. Bailey’s habit of talking to the news media about his cases. The next year, his privileges to practice law in New Jersey were suspended for a year.

Jeffrey Cohen, a University of Miami law professor who specializes in legal-malpractice law, said the Florida high court is unpredictable when it comes to bar recommendations and sometimes “can completely differ with a referee’s findings.”

Mr. Cohen, a former chairman of the Dade County Bar grievance committee, said lawyers have been disbarred on charges similar to Mr. Bailey’s. But he said that while “records of honor and trustworthiness will and should figure into this,” he does not think Mr. Bailey’s celebrity status will help him. “I don’t think he’ll be treated any differently.”

A spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court said he expects a decision on the disbarment to “come fairly quickly.”

Craig Waters said the court is in its summer recess until Monday. Chief Justice Charles Wells would be able to act on the disbarment during the recess by consulting with the other justices, but it is unlikely he would go to such extraordinary lengths.

After the recess, a death-penalty case will be the court’s top priority, Mr. Waters said, but the Bailey case likely will be resolved shortly thereafter.