Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Conspiracy or coincidence with the LCIC?

The executive director of the Lucas County Improvement Corporation (LCIC), Shawn Ferguson, resigned yesterday to 'head off being fired,' according to today's Blade.

In my previous post about the County Commissioners' issues with this organization, I said that there was a 'story behind the story' and this is certainly true.

Considering Comm. Pete Gerken's 'blame' of Shawn Ferguson for a signing a contract that Gerken pushed, I can't help but wonder if Ferguson is the pawn being sacrificed. And then I look at Comm. Ben Konop's criticism of Ferguson (most not his responsibility and really the fault of the LCIC's executive committee dominated by Pete Gerken) and my political instinct sends up huge red flags.

I have nothing other than instinct on which to base my speculations, but after 15 years in Toledo-Lucas County politics, I've learned to trust such instincts. And what are they telling me?

That we should not be surprised if we learn that Ferguson did only as he was told and Konop's sudden concerns were part of a carefully orchestrated plan designed to force the resignation (or firing) of Ferguson in order to protect Gerken from legitimate criticism over how he's manipulating the LCIC.

Some of you may say that they're just not smart enough to come up with such a plan and that it's probably just coincidence or convergence of events. But having watched them all and the extents they go to in order to maintain their power and control, I wouldn't put it past them. Time will tell.

In the meantime, Ferguson has 'fallen upon the sword,' giving both the LCIC and Gerken a scapegoat. I predict Gerken and Konop will have a 'unity meeting' over the subject of the LCIC and all will be sunny again in Lucas County. And things will then proceed as they always have - with Lucas County having the highest unemployment of all Ohio's urban areas, population continuing to decline, taxes going up, etc., etc., etc.

Tell me again why government - instead of the private sector - is supposed to lead economic development????

NOTE: For discussion on this and other details which will help you connect the dots, tune in tonight at 6 p.m. on Eye On Toledo.

9 comments:

Christopher said...

I am on the outside looking in, but given the Blade's recent bulldog approach to journalism, I would certainly hope that Joe Vardon keeps digging. This contract with the consulting firm may just be one example of Gerken's breach of public trust. Gerken needs to pay for this breach. Joe Vardon needs to use the same intensity that Wilkinson and others used in bringing down Tom Noe.

Secondly, I don't see Konop and Gerken getting together. Konop is too motivated to not see a chink in gerken's armor that he can exploit to further his own political career.

I hope your instincts are wrong on this one.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

Doesn't it also seem suspicious that Tina Skeldon Wozniak seemed to have no idea that a contract had been signed? As president of the Lucas County Commisioners, and a member of the LCIC board, wouldn't this be an obligation of her position?

I think perhaps that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg here.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

I hate to seem paranoid, but should the timing of the release of all of this information - Mr Konop's criticisms, the Blade story, and the recent presentation by Barry Broome at the Docks be considered suspicious ... or simply a series of unrelated coincidences?

Mark W Adams said...

Connect the Dots???

I hope so. Your predictably anti-government, conservative non sequitur at the end really jumped out at me.

Do you mean we shouldn't even study community development? Is there a private developer out there who was shut out of the process due to Gerken's mishandling of this episode?

Now I grant you, Gerken might be using a version of the incompetence dodge to hide some corruption here, but there's no real "there" there -- so it's at best a leap to bring in Konop as part of the scheme, even though it's conceivable that he might have been fed the right bait to go in this direction without being part of a conspiracy.

But I can't wait to hear how you connect your conspiracy theory to some privatization argument. This is a story about corruption, not your ideology. Fraud is a crime, and there could be some fraud here.

Who else but society's duly elected representative are supposed to coordinate the development of the community? By reading your post, I get the feeling that you'd rather eliminate the position of economic development director, or leave such a position in the hands of business leaders.

The free market is not an end in and of itself. The next thing you know, you'll want private contractors in charge our police and fire or running security in Iraq . . . oh, wait...

Maggie Thurber said...

Mark - perhaps you've misunderstood the reference. Originally, the LCIC was not the 'economic development arm' of the county. The county had its own economic development department and the primary role of that office was to work WITH the local municipal jurisdictions (cities, villages, townships) to accomplish their individual goals and provide the county-related support that was appropriate.

The change in the structure, mission, organization and bylaws of the LCIC were a direct result of Gerken's design. And the timing of the announcement about this 'new economic development agency' was intentionally designed to occur PRIOR to the announcement, at the time, of the Regional Growth Partnership's new organizational structure and completely private funding. Again, at the time, the purpose/mission/goals of the two organizations were almost identical.

Gerken's goal, at the time, was to negate the private sector initiative in favor of a government-led one. While I believe in LIMITED (not absence of) government, Gerken believes government should do everything (my opinion).

In my perfect world, economic development would be led by the private sector - with peers helping to attract and meet the needs of potential new or expanding companies. And please note that I like the structure and funding of the RGP in terms of such a role.

Government would support such private-sector led efforts through coordinating appropriate zoning, tax, infrastructure, etc... services. I would envision that such coordination would require a government employee (title could be economic development director) to facilitate such government services.

But remember - the LCIC is not a government agency. It is a non-profit with some government members and in this case, it's dominated by one elected official.

So that's the context - the original competition between a Gerken-led redesigned LCIC and the private-sector funded RGP - in which I asked the question.

As for the rest of your post...it's an interesting point you make:

"...so it's at best a leap to bring in Konop as part of the scheme, even though it's conceivable that he might have been fed the right bait to go in this direction without being part of a conspiracy."

And I agree about the possibility of him being fed the right bait...but the red flags are still flying...

Mark W Adams said...

Thanks for clearing that up for me Maggie.

And ... yeah. I think Konop might be too wet behind the ears (read: naive/idealistic) to really be in on any shenanigans. Or at least trusted with the whole scheme. If there's a true incompetence dodge going on, there needs to be both a scapegoat (Ferguson) and a useful fool (Konop).

Neighborhood Concerns said...

"Considering Comm. Pete Gerken's 'blame' of Shawn Ferguson for a signing a contract that Gerken pushed, I can't help but wonder if Ferguson is the pawn being sacrificed."

There is any doubt?

Gerken pushes the contract and an underlin pays the price.

Seems all too famaliar to a LOT of politico's as of late.

This kind of action is surprising given the climate and actions of many in office who once thought they could and then found their wings clipped.

Brian Maxson said...

Maggie,

Gauging from the photo referenceing today's article in the Blade, it's looking like you're missed on the BCC.

It also looks like two faces of the realization "business as usual" is going to change.

Stinks that Ben went outside the realm of his position to end it all, but better a party member than a scapegoat.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Brian,

Please clarify:

Ben's democrat party, or comrade Gherkin's Communist party?

Sometimes I get confused...

;-)

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