Port Clinton officials threatened

Letters to council members too vulgar for public consumption
Melissa Topey
Mar 10, 2013

Port Clinton police refuse to release copies of explicit letters sent to five city council members late last month.   

The letters were sent to council in regular mail, which made the documents a public record well before the police ever began investigating.  

Still, Port Clinton police Chief Rob Hickman said he has no plans to release the letters, at least not until he's done investigating. 

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Get the e*Paper or buy the Sunay Register at a newsstand near you for more reaction from council members and to find out how police are moving forward with the investigation.  
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Councilwoman Kathleen Mehl said she hasn't read the letters, but council president Linda Hartlaub did read one of them. 

At a Feb. 26 council meeting, councilman Mike Snyder arrived to find a letter on his desk. The handwriting on the envelope was shoddy, and at first he thought it was from a child. Inside he found a three-paragraph letter printed off a computer, and quickly realized the content wasn't so childlike.

“I read the first line and stopped,” councilman Snyder said. “It was sexually explicit in nature. To get this letter is disturbing.”

The letter demanded the resignation of a particular council member, whom Snyder and Hartlaub refused to identify. It also contained rants and derogatory remarks expressing displeasure at council and elected officials, Port Clinton police Detective Corbin Carpenter said. 

Snyder found four more letters waiting for longtime council members Mark Coppeler, Randy Lipstraw, Kathleen Mehl and Deb Benko. There are seven council members, plus council president Hartlaub.

Snyder collected the letters and informed Hartlaub and Mayor Vince Leone. In turn, they contacted Port Clinton police.

 

Comments

Centauri

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/149.43

(2) “Confidential law enforcement investigatory record” means any record that pertains to a law enforcement matter of a criminal, quasi-criminal, civil, or administrative nature, but only to the extent that the release of the record would create a high probability of disclosure of any of the following:

(a) The identity of a suspect who has not been charged with the offense to which the record pertains, or of an information source or witness to whom confidentiality has been reasonably promised;

(b) Information provided by an information source or witness to whom confidentiality has been reasonably promised, which information would reasonably tend to disclose the source’s or witness’s identity;
(c) Specific confidential investigatory techniques or procedures or specific investigatory work product;
(d) Information that would endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel, a crime victim, a witness, or a confidential information source.

What about that letter to an Erie County, Ohio judge? Somebody wrote a letter to him describing what he (judge) could do with a broom stick. I heard that the judge was really p!ssed.

Centauri

I doubt that the vulgar letter to the Port Clinton, Ohio city officials would:

(a) "identity of a suspect"

(b) "confidentiality has been reasonably promised"

(c) "Specific confidential investigatory techniques or procedures or specific investigatory work product"

(d) "Information that would endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel, a crime victim, a witness, or a confidential information source."

The Port Clinton Police Chief is wrong to hold back the public record.

Ignorant: "Lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular"

nobodyfromnowhere

First Centauri, it has to be a Public Record and thus far from what we know it fails to meet the Content and Effect of Actual use test. Again see the Sunshine Laws Handbook page 5 and also State ex al Margolius v. Cleveland, 62 Ohio St. 3d 45, 461 (1992). You can download the PDF at the Ohio Attorney General's website. Second, the actual letters are Physical Evidence and thus not subject to disclosure per OAG ruling, also in the Sunshine Laws Handbook. Third, I can reasonably see how the letters meet the tests of ORC 149.43 A2a&c there by protecting them from disclosure. Chief Hickman is well with in the legal boundaries on several fronts to not release the letters. Since Mr. Westerhold has already said that The Register isn't going to try to force disclosure through the legal process established to settle disputes on these issues (before the moderators remove the post), and given all the education of its people on public records that the Register crows about, I find it very hard to believe that Mr. Westerhold and Ms. Topey don't also know it.

Centauri

Please note what Ohio law states "but only to the extent that the release of the record would create a high probability of disclosure of any of the following" The key words are "high probability" to (a) (b) (c) (d)

That letter that was sent to the Erie County, Ohio judge was released to the newspapers, was it not?

Julie R.

What letter are you referring to? I seem to recall reading in the paper once about an anonymous letter wrote to Roger Binette. Is that the one? If so, you are correct. Why was that letter released to the public but not this one?

Centauri

You are correct. The letter to the judge described how to make a judgesicle.

Ottawa County, Ohio has a big carpet with a big mound of dirt swept under it.

Centauri
herbie_hancock

(2) "Confidential law enforcement investigatory record" means any record that pertains to a law enforcement matter of a criminal, quasi-criminal, civil, or administrative nature, but only to the extent that the release of the record would create a high probability of disclosure of any of the following:

(a) The identity of a suspect who has not been charged with the offense to which the record pertains.

So you just proved in your own post the possible reason why they haven't released it yet.....because it may reveal the who the suspect is and they haven't been charged yet. So by law which you just posted, they don't have to release it yet.

Centauri

So what crime was committed? Did the letter threaten to do bodily harm to the Port Clinton, Ohio officials? The person who wrote the letter could send a copy of the original by postal mail to the Sandusky Register and remain anonymous.

Cityslicker

Once a media loses respect from the government, and public, it becomes much harder to get info that would normally be told upon asking. The SR starting losing that respect big time around 2006-2007. And from what I understand, that friction turned to fire recently.

Julie R.

Saying the government loses respect for the media is a joke. I would have to say it's the other way around.

Centauri

A very good book to read about Ohio's public records.

Access with Attitude: An Advocate's Guide to Freedom of Information in Ohio by David Marburger and Karl Idsvoog

http://www.amazon.com/Access-Att...
"For those who find themselves in a battle for public records, Access with Attitude: An Advocate’s Guide to Freedom of Information in Ohio is an indispensable weapon. First Amendment lawyer David Marburger and investigative journalist Karl Idsvoog have written a simply worded, practical guide on how to take full advantage of Ohio’s so-called Sunshine Laws. Journalists, law firms, labor unions, private investigators, genealogists, realty companies, banks, insurers—anyone who regularly needs access to publicly held information—will find this comprehensive and contentious guide to be invaluable. Marburger, who drafted many of the provisions that Ohio adopted in its open records law, and coauthor
Idsvoog have been fighting for broader access to public records their entire careers. They offer field-tested tips on how to avoid “no,” and advise readers on legal strategies if their requests for information go unmet. Step by step, they show how to avoid delays and make the law work. Whether you’re a citizen, a nonprofit organization, journalist, or attorney going after public records, Access with Attitude is an essential resource."

Centauri

I want to add that "Access With Attitide" should be required reading before graduation from Ohio's high schools. The powers that be don't want you to read this book.

Matt Westerhold's picture
Matt Westerhold

Thanks Centauri for the excellent plug for an excellent book designed to empower the public. 

"Access With Attitude" was written by attorney Dave Marburger and Kent State University journalism instructor, broadcaster and newsman Karl Idsvoog.

Copies of this excellent book can be obtained through the Register. Call 419-609-5866.

nobodyfromnowhere

Hey Matt you are back! Any answers to my questions I asked above?

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