Friday, August 01, 2008

FOIA Friday - August 1, 2008

Several items for today's FOIA Friday:

This past week I saw a couple of unusual items on the Toledo City Council agenda, so I made a request for the particular ordinance and got the documents the next business day. It's a pleasure making public records requests of the Clerk of Council and I appreciate his prompt responses.

Here's what I found out: the city of Toledo is going to request donations from individuals seeking approval of their work from the Building Inspections Department and permit offices to help fund a 'It Pays To Hire a Licensed Contractor' ad campaign. The ordinance passed by council on Tuesday allows them to create a fund to receive the donations and then expend money from the fund. I spoke to the staff member in charge of the program and he insisted that the only money to be spent will be the donations received - no money from the city will be used for the program.

I've got a problem with a regulatory office asking for donations from individuals/businesses seeking approval of their work from that same office. It seems to me to be the appearance of an impropriety, if not an outright impropriety. Would there be any concern from people seeking inspection approvals that a lack of a donation might put them at risk of not being approved - or of going to the bottom of the schedule for the inspection?

I don't think the employees in this office would do such things, but I wouldn't put it past the mayor to suggest such a tactic. Regardless, it's not whether or not the 'retaliation' would actually occur - it's whether or not the people doing business with the office would perceive that such retaliation is possible.

And why does the city need to do this in the first place? Is it really the role of city government to collect donations to run an advertising campaign telling the public that hiring a licensed contractor to do work on their homes is a good idea????


We've been following the public records requests from Mayor Carty Finkbeiner to the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority and the subsequent letter from District 2 Councilman D. Michael Collins - and the frustration these individuals have over not getting their documents in a short period of time.

We've also been following GraphicsGuy's request from two months ago - and his righteous indignation that his public records request seems to be ignored while the mayor and the city law department go about their own personal vendettas.

As of today (less than weeks from the first request), Collins has received a paper with some information on the Erie Street Market financials, but it was far from a complete accounting. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner has received over 1,000 pages of documents in response to his request, though it appears more is still to come.

But GraphicsGuy hasn't even gotten a response to his letter to the law director.

Guess we know the priorities of the elected officials - and it isn't in following the state law or in what concerns the citizens.


As a result of some new information about the Erie Street Market, I made another public records request to obtain any documents/contracts/agreements which detail the relationship between Rob Croak and the City of Toledo and/or the Erie Street Market. Croak was selected by Carty to run concerts in the newly renovated (at a cost of $80,000 without council approval) Civic Theater. Apparently, Croak is also the general contractor for the renovations and is reported to be getting 40% of the profits from liquor sales, although today's paper says he's getting 100% of the gate receipts and no proceeds from the alcohol. We'll see...

As the mayor said in his records request, these documents should be readily available so I'll expect them today. Again, we'll see....

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