LISBON - State Rep. Craig Newbold said he intends to continue helping East Liverpool when he can, even if Mayor Jim Swoger may think otherwise.
"That would be cutting off my nose in spite of my face," Newbold said about any suggestion he would quit helping East Liverpool because of a phone message he left for Swoger.
"But I am frustrated in my dealings with East Liverpool," he added.
The dispute came to light following a Morning Journal story that ran on May 6 about a bill introduced by Newbold that seeks to minimize the liability of county governments in civil lawsuits where the county is innocent of any wrongdoing.
In that story, Newbold said Swoger hung up on him while they were discussing the proposed legislation because the mayor believed it was in response to East Liverpool's lawsuit against the Buckeye Water District, although the bill would have no affect on that situation.
Swoger could not be reached for comment for the May 6 story but later told the Morning Journal he hung up on Newbold, not because of the bill, but after the discussion turned to the condition of buildings in town owned by Newbold's companies.
"To say that's what we were arguing about is not true," Swoger said, adding he became frustrated while talking to Newbold about the condition of his buildings and chose to hang up rather than "say something I'd be sorry for ... I do have a temper."
Swoger also made the newspaper aware of a message left on his office answering machine by Newbold on March 19, which was after the hang-up conversation. Swoger saved the message, and the following is what Newbold had to say:
"Jim, I was going to tell you, before you hung up on me rudely, that I'm talking to two organizations about growing their operations or expanding their operations in East Liverpool. I guess given your attitude I should rethink that, if you're going to treat business people in town like you do me. I don't know why I'm even trying to help you down there. But these are two significant companies that are related to oil and gas, and right now I'm the only one talking to them. So I just wanted to let you know what you just did to yourself."
Swoger interpreted the message to mean "because of my attitude he's not going to bring them here."
"I did say something along those lines," Newbold said of the message, adding he never meant that he would quit working behalf of East Liverpool. "I wasn't serious because I'm continuing to work with them," he said of the companies.
Newbold said the comments had nothing to do with his buildings but were the result of his "frustration" in talking with Swoger about what he perceives as the city's seeming indifference to creating a pro-active economic development plan that businesses would find attractive.
As for the message, Swoger said Nick Barborak - Newbold's opponent in the November general election -learned of its existence and made a copy. Swoger considers the message a public record since it was left on his office answering machine. Newbold is a Republican, while Swoger and Barborak are Democrats.
Newbold said any suggestion he would be anti-East Liverpool is simply untrue, noting his father operated a gas station in the city for years, and he considers it his home area, which is why he chose to locate his businesses there.
"I went there to help the town," he said.
While Swoger concedes his relationship with Newbold is strained, he said they shook hands at the annual prayer breakfast held in East Liverpool. "I don't hold a grudge," he said.