Updated: Mayor said Councilman request for information ‘totally inappropriate’Written by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Mike Bell told Councilman D. Michael Collins a request for information related to the proposed merger of fire services with the Village of Ottawa Hills, is seen as “attempting to interfere with decisions of Chief Michael Wolever” and “It is totally inappropriate, not to mention a violation of Charter Section 30.”
Both communications were obtained by Toledo Free Press on Dec. 20.
Collins made a request for public information to the Bell administration on Dec. 19 asking for:
- The annual reports for the past three (3) years that are used to define the risk and justifications for equipment and staffing in each of the 17 fire stations.
- The inventory of what equipment and apparatus found in Heavy Squad #7 that are exclusive to that unit.
- The number of working fires in the past (3) years that Heavy Squad #7 did not report to the scene, which each year reported out as an individual yearly report for service.
- The study and or evaluation records which support moving Heavy Squad #7 from Franklin and Bancroft (Station 7) and an explanation as to how the study was conducted.
- The number of runs Heavy Squad #7 made to Districts 2 and 5 in the past (3) years as reported on a yearly basis.
He also stated as a part of his request, that he acknowledged it was a last minute request and was not being made to challenge the administration on staffing issues. Collins said the information was necessary so that members of council would have the information to evaluate the outcomes of the legislation.
In the city’s response, dated Dec. 20, the Mayor additionally said, “As the Chair of the Public Safety, Law and Criminal Justice Committee you have had ample time to examine the proposed agreement with the Village of Ottawa Hills and to ask questions. For the reasons stated above, we will not be responding to your request for information.”
The Mayor also reminded Collins that he is a member of City Council and not the Chief of the Department of Fire and Rescue Operations.
At the Dec. 16 Public Safety, Law and Criminal Justice Committee, Chief Wolever, in response to questions by Collins on how the decision was made to as which piece of equipment would go to Ottawa Hills, said, “We do that by doing a Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, and we do that on a regular basis, throughout the city, presently. That tells us the types of runs that we respond to, the numbers. It allows us to better determine if the equipment we have in an a particular area is appropriate.” Wolever said that the assessment was part of the accreditation process for Toledo’s Fire Department.
Later during the committee hearing, Wolever in response to a question on the risk assessments by Councilman Tom Waniewski said, “We do a major one every year, but when we move a piece of equipment, such as Truck 5 when we moved it into 25′s, we look at it quarterly to ensure that if we made a big mistake we can jump on it earlier rather than later.”
Section 30 of the charter for the city of Toledo states, “Except insofar as is necessary in the performance of the duties of his or her office, no member of the Council shall interfere, directly or indirectly, with the conduct of the administration or directly or indirectly take any part in the appointment, promotion, or dismissal of any officer or employee in the service of the City other than the officers or employees of the Council and except insofar as Council confirmation is necessary to fill a position as required by this Charter. Except for the purpose of inquiry, the members of Council shall deal solely through the Mayor regarding the administration.”
Toledo Free Press contacted the office of Mayor Mike Bell on Dec. 20 for clarification on the public record availability of the assessment documentation that Wolever referenced on Dec. 16. No response was received prior to publication.
On Dec. 21, Jennifer Sorgenfrei, public information officer for Toledo said via e-mail, “The information that Councilman Collins requested is contained in the ‘Vulnerability and Public Risk Assessment’ manual. This information is not public record as it contributes directly to the Toledo Fire and Rescue Department’s planning and preparedness for Homeland Security and Terrorism Response efforts and releasing the information contained within creates potential and opportunity for public harm.”