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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -
Controversy is swirling at City Hall Friday, as released information reveals many Toledo City Council members and top administrators owe money on their water bills. The mayor and City Council are feuding over the city's utility deposit policy.
The issue of water will intensify as the mayor is expected to put a water rate increase plan before Council soon. It is a list which shows many Council members and top administrators have a history of not staying current on their water bills and even owe money.
Information released by the mayor's office shows two deputy mayors have current open balances, as well as seven council members and the mayor. Councilman Tyrone Riley has outstanding balances for more than a dozen rental properties. Several Council members are being sent a "final notice prior to disconnect."
Accounts with outstanding balances, according to the city of Toledo:
-D. Michael Collins
Martinez says while there is no excuse, he is puzzled over why this list was put together.
"First and foremost, it's a little embarrassing. I'm not sure why that list was compiled. I've been told it's in anticipation of those public records request. The bottom line is, as elected officials, we're held to a higher standard," said Martinez.
Mayor Mike Bell says he takes responsibility for this list being made, which even shows he has been late paying his water bill several times. The mayor says this is all about being transparent as city leaders discuss water policy issues. Bell says forming this list was necessary as city leaders discuss water deposit policy and will soon debate whether or not to increase rates to pay for repairs at the water plant.
"All I'm dealing with is an issue of 'Did you pay your water bill, or didn't you?' You can make it whatever you want, but it all comes back to that one point: 'Did you pay your water bill or didn't you?'" said Bell.
However, the mayor says he did not leak this list to the media.
"We didn't present this to the media. We presented this to the president of Council, so anything that has gotten away from us here on this was not done by the administration to hurt anybody," explained Bell.
Council President Joe McNamara denies leaking the list and says the mayor created a document he never should have created and is now trying to blame others for it going public.
"What the administration did was reprehensible. They knew this was going to go to the media," said Councilman Mike Craig.
Saying he is now current on his water bill, Craig believes his family's privacy was violated when the Bell administration put together the list of water service account history.
"My wife and mother-in-law are on my bill. We all own the building together. They didn't give up their right to privacy," explained Craig.
Mayor Bell defends compiling the list because it reveals even he has been late several times.
"I'm going to be late. My mail goes to a P.O. Box. I get to that thing now and again. I just pay the late fee and move on," admitted Bell.
Martinez says he is also current on his water bill, and admits being late on occasion. He hopes everyone can wipe the slate clean for significant changes within the city's public utilities system.
"What this did - if anything - shows the need to overhaul our entire water system, and how they do collections. This is a great reason why they should go to monthly billing," said Martinez.
As far as the mayor's pending water rate increase proposal, he says City Council can expect it within the next 30 to 45 days.