Sunday, January 21, 2001

Choice baffles council hopeful

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DAYTON — A spurned city council hopeful is questioning why she was denied a council seat that opened with the impeachment of Mayor Bobby Crittendon.

        Penny Blagg was one of two Dayton residents who applied for the council vacancy created when councilman Ron Gunning was elevated to mayor, replacing Mr. Crittendon. Now Ms. Blagg is wondering if an “inside deal” played into the vote, while at least one council member bemoans the lack of gender diversity on the council.

        Dayton's council voted 6-0 Dec. 23 to remove Mr. Crittendon from office for a host of alleged violations, including nepotism, voiding parking tickets, using city equipment for personal use and interfering with a criminal investigation.

        After Mr. Gunning was voted mayor by fellow council members, Ms. Blagg applied for his seat. Though she had never served on council, she is active in the city and was nearly elected in November, finishing seventh out of 11 candidates in a race for six seats.

        But instead of selecting Ms. Blagg, council voted 4-1 for former council member Dennis Ashford, a Dayton business owner who had been voted off council in 1998.

        “I think it is very unfair that council has chosen to ignore what the citizens of Dayton have voted for,” said Ms. Blagg, 41.

        “Instead of looking at the results of the election and taking the next person, council decides instead to take applications. I have no problem personally with Dennis Ashford, but he showed no interest in the last election; he made no attempt to run.”

        Mr. Gunning denied any deals or other arrangements were made with Mr. Ashford or anyone else.

        “We wanted the process to be open and fair, that's why we asked for applications,” Mr. Gunning said.

        “Both of the people who applied were fairly considered, and a vote was taken. Penny Blagg has done a lot for the city, and I'm sure she would have done a fine job. But with what has gone on in the city, council felt it was important to choose a person with some experience, and that was Dennis Ashford.”

        Donald Seifert, who voted for Mr. Ashford, said he is the better qualified candidate.

        “I want to take nothing away from Penny,” Mr. Seifert said. “She's a good person who is dedicated to the city and who served on the park board. But I felt that I needed to vote for the person who was the most qualified. If Penny runs in two years, I wish her well.”

        Cathy Lenz Volter, the only woman on council, was also the only council member who supported Ms. Blagg.

        “She would create a more diverse council,” Ms. Volter said, “and she apparently has an interest in government since she regularly attends council meetings. But I also know Dennis is hard-working and active and interested in the community.

        “It was a tough situation, but I'm sure I can serve with Dennis Ashford and not have any problems.”

        Ms. Volter also questioned why applications were taken, since such a process was not necessary.

        Mr. Ashford said he is well-qualified to serve.

        “I've been on council, they know they can work with me, I'm active in youth sports and other things in the community and I don't play a lot of politics,” he said.


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