The Toledo Municipal Code (TMC) lists more than 40 volunteer boards and commissions in the City of Toledo. One recent set of appointments shows City Council is not following the TMC.
At the Sept. 28 Toledo City Council meeting, Mary Ann Arquette, Ora M. Bell, Fred J. Folger and Emily Marie Wilson were all confirmed to the Toledo Cemetery Commission, but at least three of them violate term limits set by the TMC.
The Cemetery Commission was created in 1999, with requirements that include the uncompensated members have specific backgrounds or areas of residence and a stipulation that members can only be reappointed for one four-year term.
Documentation obtained by Toledo Free Press states Arquette, Folger and Bell were already presented as reappointments to the Cemetery Commission by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and approved by City Council on April 17, 2007, with their terms set to expire on April 1, 2010.
The resumes provided to Toledo City Council on Sept. 17 indicate that Arquette has been a member of the Cemetery Commission since its creation.
A section of the TMC on volunteer appointments states that citizens “who serve 10 consecutive years as a member of a board or commission shall not be eligible for reappointment.” It does not appear there was a waiver in 2007, which would have been required then and now, since Arquette has served for more than 10 years and been reappointed more than one term.
Ora Bell, mother of Mayor Mike Bell, and Folger would also require a waiver of the TMC. Wilson’s resume states she is a current member of the Cemetery Commission, but does not indicate if she has served more than one term and there are no other appointments listed to the Cemetery Commission for 2006 through 2010 in the Toledo City Journal.
Who is responsible for the Bell administration and members of Toledo City Council missing a special waiver of the TMC would be required for at least three of the appointees? Since no waiver was included on Sept. 28, legislation will have to be presented and voted on, again.
How many other people on how many other boards have been or were appointed in conflict with the TMC?
Bell said during the Sept. 17 agenda review that “we have boards that run on a sheet of paper forever.” He said they need to review the rest of the commissions and boards.
A Pearl Harbor Remembrance Commission was formed in 2003 to sponsor a yearly essay contest for Toledo Public Schools children. A Wrestling Commission was formed back in the 1900s to be involved in wrestling tournaments taking place in the city. No appointments have been made to either since at least 2006; the same applies to several others listed in the TMC.
How transparent is the process in seeking citizen participation on the boards and commissions? There is no online directory of boards and commissions listing members or a meeting schedule. If you visit the city website for information on cemeteries, one page that is supposed to be about “foundation procedures” goes to the 2008 leaf pickup schedule.
To find the names of appointees you have to go through pages of the Toledo City Journal, which is not a user-friendly document to search. Journals prior to 2006 are not online.
Councilman Tom Waniewski is the chair of the Intergovernmental Relations and Environment Committee, the logical committee to look into the necessity of the boards and commissions listed in the TMC.
In a Sept. 29 interview, Waniewski said he would welcome the task, as it would give his committee the “first opportunity to do something that is policy TMC-related; it’d be a step in the right direction.”
Waniewski said he’d like to go beyond this and look at some of the other outside boards and commissions that members of Council are required to attend. He feels many of those could be streamlined or deemed unnecessary as far as requiring Council attendance.
Councilman D. Michael Collins has said in the past that a review of Toledo’s charter and the TMC is long overdue. During a Sept. 29 interview, he confirmed his interest. One section he gave as an example of the City Charter needing clarification is Section 30, titled, “Council member shall not interfere with Administration.”
Collins said that section was ambiguous: It gives the mayor and the administration control, giving the impression that Council has authority to make decisions.
“We need to bring our charter into the 21st century,” Collins said.
Another example of the TMC that does not appear to be followed is “Continuity of Government,” which was adopted in the 1960s. It states that the mayor, council and other directors are to designate, within 30 days of taking office, three successors should there be some type of an emergency, like an attack, or if they are unable to perform their position due to “death, absence or disability of the incumbent officer.”
Appreciating those who have volunteered for years is important, but there has to be a way to mix some of their experience with the ideas and experiences new volunteers could bring.
The TMC and the charter need to be reviewed. Eliminating boards that are no longer necessary and redefining others could save money and restore faith that our government will follow the legislation it passes.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.