In their letters of termination, the mayor told the department’s top two administrators that recent events “have irretrievably eroded” his confidence in their abilities to perform their jobs. Mayor Bell came down especially hard on Ms. Bond, stating his believe that she “knew or should have known of serious issues” within the department, “failed to adequately address these issues,” and
“consistently failed to bring matters” to the mayor’s attention so they could be addressed.
The mayor followed up those firings this past week by punishing two subordinates to those administrators: housing manager Jody Prude and Toni Thomas. Both women were issued a ten-day suspension, a demotion, cut in pay, and transferred to a lower position outside the department of neighborhoods. A city attorney, Ms. Santiago’s signature appears on the agreements outlining their punishment.
However, both women could face additional sanctions, including termination, if a separate criminal investigation by the FBI reveals any further wrongdoing. The mayor’s office has not indicated what specifically an internal probe of departmental operations revealed, but Ms. Prude and Ms. Thomas each were charged with failure to follow procedure, gross misconduct, misfeasance, nonfeasance, and insubordination.
Ms. Santiago so far has avoided public comment on her appointment to the post. But Mayor Bell pointed out she has done the job before on a temporary basis. Ms. Santiago moved from the city law department, where she was a city attorney, to her newly-appointed administrative post.
“She’s got experience in that and she is an attorney,” said Mayor Bell. “That will put us in a better scope of making sure we’re doing everything legally and I feel very comfortable. Lourdes is a taskmaster. She’s very focused and she’s very professional. I have a high confidence level that she will do what is necessary to restructure and stabilize that particular department.”
Ms. Santiago has served the city in a number of administrative capacities during previous administrations, including appointments in the city’s human resources department and as a top advisor to previous mayors. She served for a brief time as an appointed member of Toledo City Council and has run for judge in the past.
This past fall, she entered the race for Lucas County Common Pleas Court, but withdrew her name when the board of elections allowed an endorsed Democratic candidate to be placed on the November ballot.