Island officials ditch hearing

Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan also dodges questions after island mayor and police chief defy court order in strange arrests of hotel employees
Alex Green
Jul 3, 2014

 

 green@oc-register.com

Put-in-Bay Mayor Margaret Scarpelli and police Chief Ric Lampela both failed to show up Tuesday for a court hearing concerning criminal charges filed against three employees of an island hotel.

"They think they're above the law," said Lisa Cooper, general manager at the Put-in-Bay Resort.  

Charges against one Put-in-Bay Resort employee already have been dropped, but she and the other employee with pending charges both plan a vigorous defense if Ottawa County Prosecutor Mark Mulligan goes forward with the criminal charges against them, Cooper said. 

But that vigorous defense was derailed Tuesday when Scarpelli and Lampela both were no-shows at the hearing.

Mulligan also dodged questions about his alleged involvement in the arrests and statements in the arrest reports about instructions he allegedly gave to the arresting officer.

"This is an old case and I have not been sufficiently involved in (it) to answer your questions," Mulligan wrote Wednesday in an email response to an inquiry from the Register.

But Mulligan was involved from the very start, according to Cooper. He either ordered the arrests, or information in the arrest reports is false.

Mulligan declined to say whether or not the arrests reports contain false information. 

Both Scarpelli and Lampela were ordered by Ottawa County Municipal Court Judge Frederick "Fritz" Hany to attend the hearing.

Village solicitor George Wilber filed a motion last Friday requesting they not be required to attend, but the request was denied.

A PIB police officer arrested two employees after they refused to talk to him about about the terminations by hotel management of two other hotel employees. The employees were not involved in the terminations and declined to speak with the officer. 

Police also demanded the fired employees — not the employees arrested — be immediately paid and later threatened to make other arrests if their final paychecks were not issued within 24 hours.

Cooper contends the Put-in-Bay Police Department has unfairly treated hotel management and employees for years. 

Police officers have been ordered to harass hotel management and employees by Lampela, Cooper contends, and there have been numerous incidents over the years of improper police behavior.  

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Cooper was arrested earlier the same week and charged with obstruction for not printing out golf cart contracts for police to view. That incident involved parking violations, she said, and when she could not immediately print out the contracts she was hauled off to a holding cell at the Put-in-Bay police station.

The improper behavior of the police officer was captured on hotel video and audience surveillance, she said, which was installed because of the ongoing harassment from police.  

Lampela and Wilbur did not return phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

The Put-in-Bay officer who arrested the employees after he asked about the terminations of the other employees told them he was acting on orders from Mulligan in making the arrests.

"The prosecutor took special interest in this case," the officer said, according to a witness statement, which is included in the audio.

Several other witnesses made similar statements the officer said he was acting on Mulligan's orders.

Mulligan would not say whether he gave the orders to make the arrests when contacted by the Register Wednesday.

The owner's attorney, however, said he recently spoke with Mulligan and Mulligan told him he did not give the Put-in-Bay police officer orders to arrest the other two employees, who were charged with obstruction for failing to immediately provide paychecks for the fired employees. 

Wilber allegedly instructed Village Council members not to review information made available to them by the resort, including video and audio clips showing what happened. 

Mayor Scarpelli, who could not be reached for comment, is the only island official empowered to review police conduct complains. She said more than six months ago that she would conduct her own investigation of what occurred. 

But Scarpelli has never contacted the hotel since then, Cooper said, and the mayor has not reached out to any of the employees or the hotel's attorneys during the course of her investigation or asked to review the video surveillance of the arrests.

Excerpts from witness statements:

"The bottom line is that I was very disappointed in how the police handled this situation."

"The officer said per Mulligan, if we did not give the girls their pay check by Sept. 26 (less than 24 hours), the officers would start arresting people for theft."

"Police were comparing the incident to what their protocol was for murder scenarios."