Finkbeiner chided for ‘silly’ letter; Bergsmark: No conflict of interest

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 9

The president of the Mud Hens’ board of directors lashed back at Mayor Carty Finkbeiner yesterday, saying that the mayor’s accusations of a conflict of interest are “silly.”

“Everything is incorrect,” Ed Bergsmark said, referring to a letter the mayor sent him Thursday.

The letter laid out a series of accusations against Mr. Bergsmark, including that he had a conflict of interest because he is a part-owner of the Toledo Storm, the minor league hockey team that plays at the Toledo Sports Arena. The Mud Hens have proposed a site in East Toledo next to the Sports Arena for a baseball stadium.

“Of all people to be talking about conflicts of interest!” Mr. Bergsmark said.

While Mr. Bergsmark would not say what he was referring to, Mr. Finkbeiner has been accused of a conflict of his own. In 1992, he purchased a condominium on the Middlegrounds property downtown. Two years later, a developer purchased the condo from him at a $107,880 profit.

The condo was purchased to make way for the Owens Corning world headquarters on the Middlegrounds. Mr. Finkbeiner was the city’s lead negotiator on the project and encouraged the corporation to put its headquarters there.

Last year, the mayor pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree misdemeanor for not disclosing on an ethics form that he had received a $10,000 payment from the developer. Mr. Finkbeiner called it an honest mistake. He was fined $250 plus court costs.

Mr. Bergsmark said that, while he owns part of the Storm, he has no financial interest in the Sports Arena. He said he will have no role whatsoever in the planned renovations to the arena.

“There isn’t any conflict,” he said. “Let’s just drop it.”

Mr. Finkbeiner was in Detroit yesterday for President Clinton’s speech at the Economic Club of Detroit. He could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Bergsmark took issue with the mayor’s claim that he and the team had not “really enthusiastically” supported the May, 1998, levy campaign that would have raised money for a new stadium through a temporary sales-tax hike.

“That’s just silly,” Mr. Bergsmark said. “We gave money to it, we did everything for it.”

He said the mayor’s letter is a typical response for the mayor.

“That’s the Finkbeiner tactic,” he said. “I’m sorry that it happened. We’re above that.”

Mr. Finkbeiner has said he would prefer that a stadium be built in downtown’s warehouse district, not in East Toledo.

“I’m surprised that Mayor Finkbeiner has that low a regard for the east side of the town.” he said. “It’s part of the downtown center and has been for years.”

Mr. Bergsmark repeated his insistence that the team would accept any of a variety of locations for a stadium. “The site, to us, is open,” he said.

In the letter, the mayor called on Mr. Bergsmark to sell his interest in the Storm or resign as chairman of the board if he said the East Toledo site was the only one the team would accept.

The quest for a new stadium for the Mud Hens has been riven with internal conflict, as city leaders, county officials, and team executives have traded insults and barbs in almost every direction.

But Mr. Bergsmark said he wants the team to maintain a positive relationship with city and county officials.

“I think what’s hurting us is the fighting back and forth between the city and the county,” he said. “I feel that the city and the county should sit down with us and try to get united on solving the issue.”