WESTERHOLD: Huron fireworks fracas a stretch of a fizzled fuse

The union representing police officers and dispatchers in Huron overreacted when Huron City Councilman Sam Artino called to complain
Matt Westerhold
May 24, 2010

 

The union representing police officers and dispatchers in Huron overreacted when Huron City Councilman Sam Artino called to complain about neighbors shooting off fireworks earlier this month.

Granted, Artino was irritated when he talked with the dispatcher, especially during the second call. But sheesh, he was hardly going berserk, and he certainly was not being demanding or disrespectful.

He sounded irritated.

I'd be irritated too if my neighbors were having a party and didn't invite me. I'd be irritated if they were shooting off fireworks. I'd be irritated if they were "dropping the F-bomb" and slamming my wife and daughter.

Tape recordings of Artino's two calls to police are still available at sanduskyregister.com. (Go to "video" in the menu selection area and click on "Councilman abused power, cops say.") Take a listen. Does this sound like a man who is being unreasonable?

I don't think so.

"Obviously you people must have told them," Artino told the dipatcher, thinking police had given the neighbors his name as the person who complained prompting the F-bomb tirade from partygoers against his family.

He was testy, but not disrespectful. He was frustrated, but it was no diatribe against the police or demand for special services.

Yes, maybe Councilman Artino went too far when he told police, "either do your job or we'll find somebody who will," but it's a stretch to claim that statement was a threat to anyone's job.

"Excuse me sir, I never gave your name to the officer. Please don't blame me, sir. I'm doing my job correctly," the dispatcher politely responds.

Artino exits gracefully.

"I want somebody to stop what's going on," he says.

There's nothing unreasonable about that.

Should police stop residents from exploding illegal fireworks? Sure.

Am I surprised officers didn't arrest anyone and didn't confiscate any unexploded fireworks? No.

But is it too much to ask that they do exactly that -- seize any and all unexploded fireworks -- and cite the guy using the lighter?

I don't think it is too much to ask.

If there was any unreasonableness in this neighborhood drama it seems to me it came from the neighbors giving the party.

"I am the one who had the party Mr. Artino called the police about," Judy Votino told a Register reporter. "This is not the first time he has abused his power."

That's a stretch. If Artino's calls to the police were an abuse of power then the threshold for any type of abuse is very low. And Votino makes no bones about the affinity for firing off fireworks.

"We've had these parties each year for about six years. We light off fireworks at the same time the city does," she said.

That's what's not legal here. No wonder Artino was irritated.

I don't know who the responsible, proficient and experienced fireworks person was at the Votino party, but I don't trust him or her. I've been to private Fourth of July festivities where everyone parties all day and when it gets dark someone begins to set torch to fuse and bam bam bam.

Amateurs lighting off fireworks is a recipe for disaster, and it's a disaster that repeats itself year after year, Independence Day after Independence Day. Defending that practice is what's unreasonable.

City Council will decide if Artino overstepped his authority and violated the city charter by taking "the initiative in the appointment or removal of officers or employees subordinate to the city manager."

If they find that's what he did, Artino could be removed from office.

But man, if that's the finding they come up with that would be a huge stretch.