TOLEDO — With a week to go until the special election to recall Toledo Mayor Billie Jo Smith and two of the city’s councilors, Terri Strom and Deanne Dunlap, voters in that city are taking sides.
“I think the recall is justified,” said Frank Jones, a musician and photographer in Toledo. “We need to have a say in what is happening.”
Recall election petitions backed by the group Take Back Toledo started circulating earlier this summer, helped along by residents in support of long-time city employees who they say were improperly forced out. The former employees were finance director Polly Chavarria, Toledo Fire Chief William Ewing and city recorder Nancy Bryant. The special election is set for Tuesday, Sept. 11.
The circumstances surrounding each employee’s exit are varied.
Bryant was fired last November after reportedly suffering discrimination, harassment and intimidation from city manager Craig Martin. She has since filed a lawsuit against the city, Martin and Smith. Bryant maintains she complained to the mayor about Martin’s behavior before her termination, but that the complaints fell on deaf ears.
Chavarria soon followed Bryant after undergoing a period of administrative leave. She left the city last December.
Ewing was fired in mid-June following disciplinary action when an investigator came in to follow up on allegations Martin was acting inappropriately toward other city employees. It was instead discovered Ewing was acting inappropriately, and after two periods of administrative leave, was also fired.
At least some Toledo residents think all three elected officials performed their jobs poorly and weren’t concerned with the voters.
“She was very mistaken in her loyalties or her loyalties were confused,” said Jones of Smith. “She was loyal to the city manager instead of the people who elected her.”
After Take Back Toledo declared its intent to file a petition to get Smith, Strom and Dunlap recalled, they group collected 173 signatures for each of the three recall petitions. After the filing, the three city officials had five days to either resign or submit a letter of justification. All three submitted letters, and the election was scheduled.
Despite Jones initially vying for Smith and the two city councilors when they ran for office, that good favor is gone now.
“I supported her when she ran for mayor,” he said of Smith. “They all got into politics and got carried away with their roles.”