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Island police chief gets backup

Register • Jul 20, 2014 at 6:03 PM

Island police Chief Ric Lampela continued to dodge questions Friday about officers who arrested three employees of the Put-in-Bay Resort hotel, but his defenders have started their own campaign to rally support for him.

A Facebook page called "Support Put-in-Bay Police Chief Ric Lampela" had 188 'likes' as of this morning. 

There are no comments of support of any nature, however, at the page. It also does not provide any information as to how Lampela's supporters can assist him as criticism of his leadership at the Put-in-Bay Police Department continues to mount. 

Click here to see the page

Lampela has dodged a series of questions on a number of allegations that have arisen in recent weeks.

One allegation is from officials at the Put-in-Bay Resort, who say Lampela has ordered police officers to harass management and staff at the hotel and at certain other island businesses. The say Lampela has targeted the hotel for years after a disagreement years ago with the owners about the village's noise ordinance. 

In September, four police officers investigating the termination of a hotel employee went to the front desk of the hotel and demanded employees explain the termination and immediately issue a paycheck for the fired employee. 

It's not clear why police became involved and Lampela has refused to comment or respond to questions. Two employees were arrested and charged with obstruction after they declined to speak with officers. 

Hotel officials have speculated the terminated employee was the girlfriend of one of the officers. 

"We can talk about it and you get a warning or we can talk about it at the station and you get arrested," the officer told the first employee arrested Sept. 24 before he cuffed her a read her her rights..

The obstruction charge filed against her was eventually dismissed.

A second employee was arrested the same day amid similar circumstances and despite the objection of a hotel attorney who was at the resort that day. 

A third employee also was charged with obstruction a day earlier after she was unable to immediately provide a golf cart rental contract for a cart involved in a parking violation police were investigating. 

Lampela and island Mayor Margaret Scarpelli failed to show up at a court hearing they were ordered to attend earlier this month, and both have refused to comment about the misdemeanor arrests, and why it's taken 10 months for the two remaining cases to wind through the court system. Lampela and Scarpelli also declined to say why they skipped the hearing they were ordered to attend.  

Hotel officials have asked Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan to drop the court cases against the other two employees. 

A PIB police officer who made the arrests said the action against the hotel employees was authorized by Mulligan, according to surveillance video from the front desk area of the hotel provided by hotel officials.

But Mulligan has said he's not familiar enough with the case to comment, and he's refused to clarify his involvement back in September when the employees were handcuffed and arrested. 

The surveillance equipment at the hotel was installed to protect the resort and its employees from police harassment, hotel officials said.

Watch the surveillance video: Strange island arrests

Lampela also has come under fire recently after it was determined false information about an alleged rape victim's statements were included in a report of the incident. Police incorrectly said the woman told them she did not want to pursue charges against her alleged assailant.

Read Drugged unconscious

Another island resident and businessman also said he fears he's become a target of the police department for expressing concern about police operations on the island.

Denny Rectenwald, 68, the retired  former Port Clinton Schools superintendent and owner of Harriet's House Guest House and Suites on the island, was handcuffed and detained for 15 minutes after a traffic stop July 11.

"People are starting to say 'enough is enough,'" Rectenwald told the Register after the incident. 

George Wilber, the island's part-time law director, also has refused to return phone calls or comment on the various issues that have arisen about the police department. 

Read: Island police 'out of control'

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Note: This article has been modified as to remove information about when the support Lampella Facebook page was started.   

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