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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments


I can't quite seem to work up much outrage over the case of Paul Spoelhof, the city planner who heads the Yellow Ribbon task force that will advise the Fort Wayne Community Schools board on building-upgrade spending. Am I wrong?

WANE-TV did a report last night claiming that its "investigation" had uncovered something startling, even though the information came out days ago in routine campaign finance reports. And The Journal Gazette opinion page ran an editorial a couple of days ago calling for Spoelhof to step down because his conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of one, has "compromised the process." Turns out he headed a political action committee that directed $29,000 to two winning school board candidates, who happen to favor lots of school upgrades, and that about half of the money came from construction firms and architects.

Is it shocking that architects and builders would favor candidates who favor building upgrades and would give them campaign money? Does anybody think $14,00 or $15,000 will buy much influence on a project that will probably end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars? Is anyone willing to actually say Spoelhof is underhanded, or are we just going to beat him up for an "appearance" of a conflict of interest? Observers say he has been scrupulous at Yellow Ribbon meetings in gathering others' opinions instead of putting out his own.

I take it for granted that the school board will approve more spending than I think it should -- we started with a top figure of nearly $1 billion, and now everyone seems to be zeroing in on $600 million. I also rather suspect that the JG, after raising such a fuss over peanuts, will strongly urge us all to support the spending, however much it is.

Posted in: Our town


Thu, 01/25/2007 - 6:08am

No one in the press ever thought there was an appearance of a conflict of interest when Marla "Gravel Gertie" Irving was a county commissioner. Didn't it strike anybody as odd that it was worth her while to spend bazillions of dollars of her own money campaigning for a position that pays diddly squat?

By comparison, the amount at issue in this scandal sounds like chicken feed.

Bob G.
Thu, 01/25/2007 - 6:19am

Well, FWCS has already spent $400K JUST to get this "task force" off the deck, and all have to show for it is a price tag somewhere in the vicinity of $600 million bucks.

There's a lot more here we're not being told, that much is certain. I'll wager the *REAL* cost is a LOT lower than even that 600 mil.

(But I can see vaseline and preparatiion H stock skyrocketing real soon...hint, buy early!)



Jon Olinger
Thu, 01/25/2007 - 9:14am

Clearly Mr. Spoelhof has a conflict of interest when he is chairman of a political action committee calling on construction companies to donate to school board candidates and chairing a yellow ribbon task force that will "design" a plan to spend hundreds of millions on construction.

The conflict is bi-directional. He is a city planner and could be perceived as putting pressure on contractors to donate to the PAC to get city business and it looks like the contractors are buying influence by Donating to get FWCS business.

That being said, this is a small town and conflicts of interest will happen. In most cases there is no illegality; however, Mr. Spoelhof should have disclosed his conflict and not worked so hard to make himself chairman of the task force.

Now it looks like it

brian stouder
Thu, 01/25/2007 - 9:21am

Luckily, Fort Wayne has room for dreams...