By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer
Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has fought many times with city council before – but the council has never hit back.
That is, until Councilman Bob McCloskey decided Thursday night that he had had enough.
With the mayor repeatedly pointing his finger in the councilman’s face and obscenities flying during a private meeting, Mr. McCloskey angrily pushed the mayor’s hand away.
“It’s not something I’m proud of, and I’m sure the mayor is not proud,” Mr. McCloskey said. “He’s not going to put his finger in my face or threaten me, and that’s that.”
The clash took place in the mayor’s office downtown. Mr. McCloskey and Councilman C. Allen McConnell wanted to discuss the mayor’s proposed move of the department of parks, recreation, and forestry from its Ottawa Park home to a building in International Park.
Mr. McCloskey, whose council district includes International Park, opposes the move.
According to Mr. McConnell, the mayor and Mr. McCloskey were engaged in “a very heated discussion” when Mr. Finkbeiner pointed his finger in Mr. McCloskey’s face. Mr. McCloskey then slapped it away.
According to another source who was in the room but did not wish to be identified, Mr. McCloskey then got up from his seat, bumped chests with the mayor, and gave him a small shove.
Mr. McCloskey confirmed that there was a physical conflict but declined to give any details. Mr. Finkbeiner did not want to talk about the incident, but said: “I did not get out of hand except to present my position quite vigorously.”
The mayor said that “Mr. McCloskey, in my judgment, is not going to tell the mayor and the chief operating officer of the city how to administer the city.”
The chief operating officer of the city is Tom Kovacik, who was present at the meeting. He confirmed Mr. McCloskey’s actions.
“It was a good meeting, other than it got to be a little too emotional,” Mr. Kovacik said. “It didn’t end with people shaking hands.”
Mr. McCloskey said there is a personality clash between him and Mr. Finkbeiner.
“The mayor and I are both very strong-willed people,” he said. “We both think absolutely that we are right. It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last time.”
Mr. McCloskey said he believed the animosity had a lot to do with other issues the two men have clashed over, such as the controversial placement of a new Rite Aid in South Toledo.
In the past, Mr. McCloskey has attacked what he considers power-hungry moves by Mr. Finkbeiner, at one point saying: “It’s a manhood issue for the mayor.” In November, he said of the mayor: “I think he needs psychiatric care.”
Both the mayor and Mr. McCloskey confirmed that Mr. Finkbeiner did not physically respond to the push. Mr. McCloskey said that things could have easily escalated had the mayor responded. “It could have been a lot worse than it was,” he said.