TOLEDO, Ohio — Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz took aim at Toledo City Council Wednesday, airing his grievances with council members during a Wednesday radio interview.
The mayor joined Scott Sands on AM 1370 WSPD for his weekly "Wednesday With Wade" segment, during which the ongoing tension between himself, city council and City Auditor Jake Jaksetic came up immediately. Kapszukiewicz hasn't been shy about his feelings regarding Jaksetic and on Wednesday, he extended his criticism toward members of council.
On Thursday, some members of council fired back with one calling him a liar.
The interview commenced about one hour before a city council meeting in which Councilwoman Katie Moline introduced a resolution urging the mayor to reconsider his refusal to speak one-on-one with members of council, and also forbidding department heads from doing the same. Kapszukiewicz initially didn't say whether that's true, but after being pressed, he eventually said it's "not the case" and referred to the resolution as political theater.
"I think instead of whining and crying like little babies," Kapszukiewicz said, "I might suggest they spend time focusing on the problem they have created by employing an auditor who, according to public records, has not produced a single audit in eight years."
The resolution passed unanimously.
Councilman Nick Komives said Thursday the mayor is "obviously lying," and provided WTOL 11 with a recent text exchange between the two in which Kapszukiewicz informs him there will be no contact between the mayor's office and city council.
Komives said citizens are suffering because council people can't get answers to their questions.
"I was sitting in council chambers while we were deliberating and receiving all the cancellations on my meetings I had upcoming," he said. "My one-on-ones with the mayor, my one-on-ones with deputy mayors, any meetings with directors or commissioners. All of them were canceled. We have not been responded to by anybody. It's ridiculous he would make the claim he is."
Councilwoman Cerssandra McPherson also said citizens are being hurt by the standoff.
"I'm very upset that the mayor would get on the radio and speak as he spoke," she said. "He talked about facts, so let's bring some facts in. The fact is the mayor did cancel all meetings and one-on-ones with city council. I was supposed to have a meeting this month with the mayor.
"The mayor said we're being babies? The mayor has now said 'I'm taking my toys and I'm going home and I'm not going to play with you anymore.' Is that a mature way to handle the business of the city of Toledo?"
City council voted on Nov. 1 to suspend Jaksetic for 30 days. A specific reason was not given, but Kapszukiewicz has been critical of Jaksetic's work performance, repeatedly saying Jaksetic has never completed an audit since being hired in 2014.
WTOL 11 submitted a public records request last week specifically asking the city for any audits Jaksetic has conducted. The city sent us eight separate files in return.
After publishing the information, Kapszukiewicz claimed those files were not audits and instead called them "financial reviews." The mayor and a city spokeswoman have also made references to Jaksetic making city employees feel unsafe, but have not provided any evidence to support those claims.
A review of Jaksetic's personnel file did not reveal any allegations of making people feel unsafe. The file did include emails from city officials and contractors complaining about Jaksetic showing up at job sites and questioning city-funded projects, including the installation of new city water meters.
Komives acknowledged part of the investigation into Jaksetic centers on "separate allegations," but did not go into detail. Council will determine its next course of action once the investigation is complete.
Komives declined to say if he thought Jaksetic should be fired. McPherson said she does not believe he should be fired, and said she is not aware of any city employee who feels uncomfortable or unsafe.
Again Wednesday, Kapszukiewicz suggested a suspension isn't enough for Jaksetic.
"I would encourage city council to spend more time resolving this and less time tweeting, texting and having their feelings hurt," he said. "It's time to grow up and lead. Unless you're cool having someone as your employee who has worked for damn near a decade and hasn't produced a single audit."
As city auditor, Jaksetic is one of the few city employees who reports to council and not the mayor. For that reason, Councilman George Sarantou told WTOL 11 Thursday the mayor should not be involved in this issue.
He also said the current stalemate between the mayor, council and department heads is making it difficult to get work done.
"The atmosphere right now is not great," Sarantou said. "Citizens are the ones being punished right now."
Sarantou said a citizen reached out to him in the past 24 hours with an issue, but Sarantou's calls to the administration have gone unanswered.
Komives is not pleased Kapszukiewicz intervened.
"Unfortunately the mayor felt like he needed to step into the middle of a process that we are handling already," Komives said. "There was no reason for him to do this. It's just a gross overreach of his power. He needs to stay in his lane. We don't go after him when we don't like employees in the city, and that's just how it works."
Kapszukiewicz told Sands the city is operating just fine.
"The city is continuing to function just fine and the mayor's office and city council continue to work together to do that," he said. "Do a small handful of city council members...do their feelings have a 'boo-boo?' Well, probably.
"We're going to collect leaves and plow snow and continue to run city government. My team will continue to do what we were elected to do."
McPherson took issue with those comments.
"When there are important meetings we need to have for citizens of Toledo and we can't have those meetings...it's not good for the citizens," McPherson said. "[The mayor's] statement was 'Leaves will still be picked up and snow will still be plowed.' Is that all we do in the city of Toledo? We've had 54 murders. Has the mayor come out about any of that? Has he directed his public safety people or police to address this with the citizens of Toledo?"
Councilwoman Tiffany Preston Whitman provided WTOL 11 with the following statement:
"When we all act as public servants and put the needs of our residents, neighborhoods and businesses first, 'issues' between the mayor and council would be at a minimum. I have too much work to do to ensure we have safe neighborhoods and thriving communities. I don’t engage in petty political squabbles and grandstanding — it’s a waste time and tax payer dollars. We are not elected to spend time putting together effective rebuttals to play out in the press."
WTOL 11 requested comment Thursday from all members of council. We also requested an interview with Kapszukiewicz, and he declined.
Thursday night, Kapszukiewicz released a statement in response to WTOL 11's reporting:
“After 5 years as mayor, I think Toledoans realize that I’m not afraid to say what I believe and that I’m passionate about standing up for Toledo.
I certainly could have used some softer words, but the frustration in my voice came from the anger taxpayers have expressed to me about how City Council has allowed an employee of theirs to earn a $90,000 salary, even though public records reveal that he has failed to perform even the most basic duties of his job.
I do apologize for my choice of words. But I do not apologize for standing up for the safety of the women in my administration and for the taxpayers who have seen their hard earned money wasted by a City Council who has ignored this problem for far too long.
I do expect City Council to resolve the mess it has created for itself, and hopefully they do it soon.
Meanwhile, the administration will continue to work with City Council, as it always does.
Leaves continue to be collected, potholes continue to be filled, and constituent concerns continue to be addressed. So while this drama may occupy the imagination of political insiders, I am happy to report that City Council’s inaction hasn’t negatively impacted the citizens at all.
There has never been an interruption in addressing the concerns of Toledoans, nor will there ever be.
I know City Council shares these sentiments, and that is why I expect them to take action soon to resolve this matter.”
You can listen to the mayor's full radio interview here.
WTOL 11 Reporter Michael Sandlin contributed to the report.