Village of Put-in-Bay
Lampela addresses community
Jul 25, 2014 at 9:08 AM
Frustrations, outrage and a scattering of compliments filled the Put-in-Bay town hall during a public meeting hosted by Put-in-Bay police Chief Ric Lampela.
He said a meeting used to be held weekly for islanders to voice concerns but people stopped attending.
So Lampela said he held Thursday's meeting due to growing complaints in the community, and will resume doing so.
"This is an island event. Islanders can come to me, share compliments or complaints and what they're seeing, so I can fix problems with the department," Lampela said.
A myriad of topics were brought up during an emotional two-plus hours, though Lampela still declined to comment on the controversial arrests of three Put-in-Bay Resort employees.
Put-in-Bay Resort employee arrests
"I'm not going to comment on cases that haven't been adjudicated," Lampela said.
Resort owner Mark Mathys and Scott Bellinger, former police chief of Munroe Falls and current police academy instructor with years of experience, replied passionately.
"It's adjudicated," Mathys and Bellinger said in unison.
Three resort employees were arrested last September while working.
The general manager was arrested when she did not immediately hand over golf cart vendor contracts when police were investigating an illegally parked golf cart.
Two desk employees were arrested for obstruction when they would not talk with officers about the termination of an employee that was unrelated to them.
One set of charges has been dropped, while the other two cases are still being reviewed by Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan.
Still, Lampela did not comment on the dismissed case.
"So let's talk about generalities," one man said. "Why would someone ever be arrested over a paycheck?"
"I'm not sure they would," Lampela said.
He also suggested Bellinger, who was vocal during the meeting, did not know all the details of the case.
"I have actually viewed the tape," Bellinger said, implying Lampela hasn't.
Mathys says neither Lampela nor Put-in-Bay Mayor Margaret Scarpelli have viewed any of the resort's video or audio from the arrests, even though Scarpelli said she took over the investigation about nine months ago.
Handcuffing of Dennis Rectenwald
Lampela scoffed at the notion that his officers were too authoritative when they handcuffed Dennis Rectenwald, a longtime former area superintendent, over a traffic violation.
Rectenwald allegedly rolled a stop sign and exited his vehicle on his own property with his hands raised, according to several witnesses.
"To think that our police department is out of control over (a traffic citation)?" Lampela said.
"The problem is you handcuffed an individual for rolling a stop sign," Bellinger said.
The two officers went back-and-forth about whether handcuffing individuals following traffic citations is standard police conduct.
Lampela said it is warranted from time to time, while Bellinger said it's improper police conduct.
Bellinger apparently had several other issues with Lampela that were raised during the meeting.
"Why are there so many people that fear the police department?" Bellinger asked at the beginning of the meeting. "They fear they will be retaliated against if they speak out."
Lampela assured the large crowd that everyone could speak freely.
Both Rectenwald and Mathys recently said these arrests were made because they've spoken out about the chief in past years.
Ed Fitzgerald, owner of Mr. Ed's, asked Lampela about the acts of three off-duty officers about three weeks ago.
He did not elaborate on the situation, though Lampela said one officer involved in the allegedly inappropriate behavior was terminated.
Neither men explained what exactly the officer did to result in termination, though Lampela said that officer was the only one at fault.
In a separate interaction, a woman stood up and blasted the chief and his department for threatening to her arrest her on her own property during an incident in which she called police to help with an intruder.
The Put-in-Bay Resort general manager also recently said she called police to help her with unruly resort guests before she was arrested.
The woman at Thursday's meeting said a man was throwing bottles at her house, but the officer only laughed at her and threatened to arrest her during the exchange, she said.
"He threatened to arrest me when I did nothing," she said. "I can't call (police), I can't rely on (police). It's a waste of my tax dollars."
Other less emotional topics were brought up during the meeting, such as golf cart parking rules, open container laws and noise coming from bars.
One supporter of Lampela and lifelong island resident stood up and said Lampela is the best police chief the island has ever had.
Lampela talks….. Sort of
Lampela called out the Register multiple times during the meeting, disputing recent reports that he has refused to comment.
He said during the meeting a recent article reported he did not comment at a council meeting he did not attend.
"I was 1,400 miles away," Lampela said.
The article did not state Lampela declined to comment at the meeting, however.
It stated he has repeatedly declined to comment on a number of cases from his department.
But after the meeting, however, he admitted why he has not been commenting to the Register.
"Why do you think I haven't been commenting to the Sandusky Register?" he asked.
Lampela was told likely because of recent articles.
"You're a pretty good investigator," he said sarcastically.
He again declined to comment on the resort employee's arrest in which the charges were dropped, saying it is part of an ongoing investigation.