City hires Columbus lobbying firm Sean P. DunnWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On April 5, Toledo City Council approved the hiring of a lobbying firm, but some members are just discovering which firm was hired.
Sean P. Dunn and Associates were in talks to become a new lobbyist firm based in Columbus to represent Toledo in mid-May and effectively began to serve for the city June 1. It was selected after submitting an online proposal on the city’s website.
“There are just so many things that go on at the state government level that affect any of your large local government entities like the City of Toledo,” Dunn said. “You really have to pick and choose which issues you are going to weigh in on. If you don’t have an employed person or a consultant who is solving this stuff on a day-to-day basis you are just not going to be aware of opportunities or threats to things that might affect you.”
Dunn and his associates, Lisa Dodge and Christie Angel, were hired at $60,000 for one year. They have never represented a city before but their client list includes AT&T and the University of Akron.
Among those unaware of the new lobbyist firm’s hire included Councilmen George Sarantou and Tom Waniewski.
“I knew they were on the fast track to get somebody hired,” Waniewski said. “I hoped that we would have had at least a committee meeting before they actually hired somebody.”
“The administration recently brought legislation to us to clean up the accounting code where that money is going to come out of,” Sarantou said. “My understanding is that they had gotten requests for proposals that they have not gotten back yet on those but I was pretty sure no decision had been made yet.”
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell is out of town and was unavailable for comment.
Although the approval to hire the lobbyist firm was approved by City Council, Waniewski was not a proponent of the decision.
“It has always been my strong belief that we have these politicians that we pay good money to, they need to be our lobbyists,” Waniewski said. “I don’t care what party [they are], I’ve worked with both parties. I’ve worked with an independent in Mike Bell and a Democrat in [Carty] Finkbeiner. We need our politicians to be our lobbyists.”
Sarantou was in support of Toledo hiring a government affairs service. Sarantou is in his third term as an at-large member of the Council.
“The role of the lobbyists is for Toledo to not get lost in the shuffle,” Sarantou said. “What happens in Columbus especially is that if you are not Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati you are at the back of the bus when it comes to programs.
“We are in a really tough situation in this day and age where cities and states have to fight for every nickel they can get their hands on for development and economic development projects in particular. I just think paying $60,000 a year is worth it and can pay off financially.”
During the past month, Dunn and his associates have worked to add language into the state budget bill which would allow the transfer of ownership of the city’s parking meters to the Lucas County Port Authority for an “upfront payment and/or periodic fees,” along with the sale of parking garages.
“The city desired in conjunction with the port authority to streamline control of parking facilities and to give the city some immediate revenue and the potential for an uptick in revenue in the future,” Dunn said. “Having a state budget which was introduced in February and getting an amendment put in with about two weeks to go is not particularly an easy thing to do. We found out we were successful with that and that’s how we are starting our relationship.”