Democratic mayoral candidate Joe McNamara is taking his criticism of opponent Anita Lopez over her use of staffers in her campaign to a new level.
McNamara's campaign has created a Web site, www.notaxdollarsforcampaignstaff.com, "where members of the public can sign a petition to tell Anita Lopez they don’t want their tax dollars going to her campaign staff. "
Lopez is Lucas County Auditor and is following the time-honored tradition of elected county officials in using some of their taxpayer-paid staff to also staff their campaign organizations - on their own time, of course, and to help fill out their campaign warchests.
McNamara - who, as a Toledo city councilman, has no staff to boss around - criticized this practice by both Lopez and Mayor Mike Bell a couple of weeks ago with his proposed ethics pledge.
Under the pledge, the candidate agrees not to accept contributions from anyone who can be hired and fired by him or her under the theory that employees would feel pressured to make campaign contributions, and to dispel the appearance that people are hired for these jobs for political considerations.
Secondly, candidates would not allow their supporters who are government employees to campaign for them during regular business hours, even if they take vacation time to do so.
Lopez refused to sign, saying that her employees have a right to contribute to her under the First Amendment.
UPDATE: Lopez said today that she sent out a memo on April 15, the day before she announced for mayor, that any politically-related phone calls to the auditor's office should be referred to the campaign phone number, which is 567-343-1340.
She said: "This is yet another example of Joe McNamara trying to create attention for an otherwise struggling campaign."
(A corollary pledge suggested to McNamara was that no candidates would accept contributions or volunteer help from any union that negotiates with the mayor and city council, on the theory that council or mayoral candidates might have an incentive to promise favorable wage and benefits contracts in return for campaign help. McNamara declined.)
(Lopez recently signed a pay raise contract with her office unions, including Teamsters Local 20, and then held a fund-raiser at the the Teamsters hall. To be fair to Lopez, her contract includes a portion of raises that will be based on "merit", a first in county government in Lucas County and perhaps in the whole state, according to the Lopez campaign.)
Andrew Grunwald, McNamara's campaign manager, told me that just because using one's paid county staff to do political work has always been done in Lucas County is no reason for it to continue.
"Ethics is going to be a cornerstone of our campaign," Grunwald said.
Here's his news release:
Lopez is using her taxpayer-funded staff in the Auditor’s office to run her campaign for Mayor. Her campaign manager is also a government-funded employee in the Auditor’s office. And now we are learning that she wants to give her staff raises on the taxpayer’s dime.
The petition is for members of the public who want to tell Lopez that they don’t think the people running her political campaign should be receiving their tax dollars.
Andrew Grunwald, the McNamara Campaign Manager said, “It seems that Anita Lopez views the people’s tax dollars as part of her own political piggy bank. Lopez needs to stop giving the taxpayer’s money to the people running her political campaign.”
McNamara has signed an ethics pledge, which both Anita Lopez and Mayor Mike Bell are refusing to sign. The people of Toledo deserve better than the Bell-Lopez ethical problems.