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Prospective City Manager Hopes Racial Issue Will Stay in Ohio : Pasadena: A Toledo man is offered the job after the directors conclude that accusations of racial insensitivity are unfounded.

May 03, 1990|VICKI TORRES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TOLEDO, Ohio — "Toledo Alive" was the slogan here in 1986 when Philip Hawkey became city manager.

As newcomers to this Midwestern city of 343,000, then in the midst of economic revival, Hawkey and his wife, Dena, strolled through Portside, a bustling new shopping center on the banks of the Maumee River.

Pleasure boats filled the river, tied up one to the other in a string of vessels that stretched nearly to the other side. Radisson and Marriott hotels were springing up, and the new SeaGate Convention Center was expected to attract convention-goers to fill them.

"The reason I came here was to be on the forefront of a changing community," said Hawkey, who recently became enmeshed in controversy after he was selected as the new city manager of Pasadena. "All indications were that this was a city taking off."

"It really looked wonderful, and we were so excited," Dena Hawkey agreed.

But in the four years since, Toledo's economic fortunes have plummeted, as have Hawkey's career hopes.

Portside is now deserted of shoppers after 5 p.m., its canned Muzak blaring down the empty mall. Downtown hotels operate half full. The city has lost four of its seven Fortune 500 companies and might lose a Jeep manufacturing plant and 5,000 jobs.

Meanwhile, the 43-year-old city manager who expected to oversee an economic renaissance in Toledo has instead been buffeted by intense enmity from members of Toledo's black community, critical of what they say is his racial insensitivity.

That criticism, and a racial discrimination complaint filed against the city by the Ohio attorney general's office, prompted the Pasadena Board of Directors to reconsider its decision to hire Hawkey as a replacement for retiring 17-year veteran City Manager Donald McIntyre.

The board met Monday and decided to again offer the post to Hawkey. After examining documents from the Ohio Civil Rights Commission for three hours in closed session, the board concluded that the accusations of racism were unfounded, Mayor William Thomson said.

Hawkey said he plans to accept the job effective June 18, pending the outcome of contract negotiations.

Hawkey bills himself as a "child of the '60s," dedicated to racial harmony and openness.

"We don't deserve this," said Dena Hawkey, who bristles at the attacks on her husband. "We have nothing to prove. We have demonstrated our kindness and compassion."

Indeed, the Hawkeys are an appealing couple who appear dedicated to liberal and family values. Married 20 years, they have three children, 15, 12 and 11 years old.

Dena Hawkey, 41, has a degree in social work and has worked for Head Start programs and the Red Cross. She serves as development director for a homeless center in Toledo.

The Hawkeys live in an integrated neighborhood in Toledo, an upscale area called Westmoreland. From their back yard, they can see the residence of Philip Hawkey's most strident critic, the Rev. Floyd Rose.

The Hawkey children attend a private school with an integrated student body. The family's residence is decorated with original artwork and hand-woven Greek rugs that reflect Dena Hawkey's Greek Orthodox background.

Philip Hawkey's background may have swayed some Pasadena directors, who developed a personal liking for the Toledo city manager, according to a high-ranking Pasadena City Hall source.

The source said that City Director Kathryn Nack reared her children in the 1960s and was persuaded by Hawkey's talk of '60s values such as community activism, public service and racial harmony.

Nack said that she empathizes with Hawkey's experiences in the '60s. "It sets a tone for his philosophy for me," she said.

According to the City Hall source, Hawkey's links with Toledo Republicans and his experience as an attorney appealed to Pasadena Mayor Thomson, a Republican and an attorney.

Thomson said that he didn't know that Hawkey was a Republican, but found the Toledo city manager to be a "well-spoken and persuasive person." Such skills are needed in Pasadena, he said.

The skills also were evident to many who dealt with Hawkey in Toledo. Yet many of Hawkey's critics there perceived his charisma as hypocrisy.

Lee Williams, president of the Toledo NAACP, said that Hawkey signed a Fair Share Agreement to meet minority hiring goals within the city, but that those goals were never met.

City job statistics, however, show that the number of blacks in top administrative positions has more than doubled under Hawkey. The percentage of all minorities in top administrative positions is now 22.8%, compared with 12.7% when Hawkey took the job.

Virginia Ortega, a Latina activist, said Hawkey appeared to be supportive of Latino concerns but failed to hire Latinos in numbers equal to their representation in the work force, a complaint backed up in a soon-to-be-released city report.

According to Toledo affirmative action specialist Gloria Ruiz, who helped prepare the report, the city has lagged in hiring Latinos. Exact numbers in the report could not be obtained.

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