New lawsuit as recall heats up

TOLEDO — The City of Toledo as well as the city’s mayor, city manager and current city attorneys, are facing another lawsuit.

In the second of two lawsuits to be filed against the city and its leaders, former Toledo fire chief William Ewing claims city leaders retaliated and discriminated against him after he exercised his rights to free speech.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 5 in the Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse in Eugene, the same courthouse where a lawsuit was filed two weeks against Mayor Billie Jo Smith, City Manager Craig Martin and the City of Toledo by former City Recorder Nancy Bryant.

Prior to being fired by the city, Ewing shared a copy of the city’s budget with former finance director Polly Chavarria after she resigned. According to Ewing’s lawsuit, he was alarmed at how many budget errors he saw in the budget. Approximately 293 corrections were made to the budget as a result of Ewing and Chavarria’s actions, the lawsuit says — although Chavarria only outlined 59 mistakes in a memo she presented to the Toledo City Council after she reviewed the budget.

The suit says city manager Craig Martin angrily confronted Ewing and threatened the chief with termination. On June 4, Martin sent Ewing a notice of potential termination, which he followed through with on June 13.

In the weeks following Ewing’s termination, David James Robinson, one of the defendants in the lawsuit and one of the city’s attorneys, accused Ewing of illegally releasing public records and trampling on the rights of taxpayers. Robinson and Paul Osterlund, another attorney for the city, requested the state Department of Justice investigate Ewing for committing a computer crime, tampering with public records, attempting to defraud the city or cover up financial misdeeds he perpetrated and stealing data, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also states Robinson and Osterlund didn’t actually present the Oregon DOJ with any evidence that the longtime city fire chief did anything wrong.

The lawsuit goes on to say Smith had a role in distributing pamphlets during the City of Toledo’s local festival in mid-July stating Ewing acted in a dishonest, immoral and criminal manner and that his behavior led to his being fired. He was not given an impartial hearing to combat the allegations in court.

The second lawsuit against the city’s leaders comes with just days to go until the recall election against Smith and city councilors Terri Strom and Deanne Dunlap.

Letters of justification submitted by Strom, Smith and Dunlap cast light on the elected officials’ mindsets going into the special election.

Statements of justification, which all three provided to Toledo City Hall in August, refute claims from a group of city residents who, according to the statements of justification, support former city employees who were fired or resigned in the last year.

“Many good people in this community, who have considered the truthful information legally disclosed to the public, have found the behaviors of three disgruntled former city employees reprehensible,” said the statement from Dunlap. “Good people in this community regard Mayor Smith and Councilors Strom and Dunlap as citizens who practice public service and community involvement.”

The recall was scheduled after alleged mismanagement at Toledo City Hall on the part of the council and Smith. Just a few of the allegations against Dunlap, Strom and Smith range from ethics law violations to fiscal irresponsibility to questionable personnel practices.

A group of incensed Toledo residents, Take Back Toledo, started circulating petitions this summer to get Dunlap, Strom and Smith recalled after Chavarria, Bryant and Ewing left their jobs with the city. Smith, Dunlap and Strom view members of Take Back Toledo as supporters of the former city employees and see the recall election as the group trying to put in new city officials who will, in turn, fire Martin.

“The actual goal of this recall is to replace three members of the City Council with supporters of three former city employees who want our city manager fired,” said the statement of justification from Smith. “Formal investigations concluded that he is performing his duties correctly.”


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