Gagged

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man-with-mouth-taped-shutThese are the key players in the current Valley View fuel tanker controversy:

Mayor Doug Franklin

Director of Public Safety & Service Enzo Cantamalessa

Capt. Bill Smith, Fire Inspector, Warren Fire Department

We now have two strikingly different stories from them as to the events that transpired. Both versions cannot be true; someone is lying. Here is a summary of their positions:

Capt. Smith’s version is by far the most complete; it consists of more than 20 pages of detailed written notes which he submitted over 4-1/2 months as a part of the official public record. If you believe these records, Doug and Enzo both impeded the investigation, and in doing so, endangered the public.

Mayor Franklin is hiding from reporters. We have no response from him.

Enzo has spoken and says he did nothing to impede the fire department or to endanger the public. (Also see Tribune article reprinted below.)

Further conversation with Capt. Smith would be interesting, and necessary to reconcile the stories, but Enzo has ordered Captain Smith not to speak about the situation publicly. Smith has been gagged.

There are situations where preventing a public employee from speaking publicly is justified. For example, if someone lacks the technical knowledge, or the specific situational knowledge to speak accurately about a given issue. One might also bar a public employee from speaking publicly when information might be revealed that could harm an innocent party who is not central to the situation.

These are clearly not those circumstances. Capt. Smith is the single most knowledgeable party in this sordid affair, and the only people who might be hurt by him speaking are his bosses at City Hall — Doug and Enzo.

By denying he said what Capt. Smith quotes him as saying in his inspection reports, Enzo is essentially calling Smith a liar, and then using his power as Director of Public Safety and Service to keep Smith from defending himself.

First Doug and Enzo abused their power by preventing the WFD from doing its job and now they are abusing their power in order to cover up the story.

Mayor Franklin compounds these problems by refusing to answer questions, which further  undermines our first responders, rather than supporting them. Leadership is accountable and I will not hide from you as mayor.

If this all makes you as angry as it makes me I suggest you write to the Tribune and make your voice heard. Or call your city councilperson and demand that Capt. Smith be allowed to speak.

Jefferson said we get the government we deserve. I think we deserve better.

I know we can do better.

 

The following is reprinted with permission from the Warren Tribune Chronicle:

Illegally parked fuel trucks are issue

September 3, 2015
By RAYMOND L. SMITH – Tribune Chronicle (rsmith@tribtoday.comTribune Chronicle

WARREN – Mayoral candidate Dennis Blank said city officials endangered residents when they ordered fire inspectors to delay citing a local businessman who repeatedly parked a fuel tanker truck near a residential neighborhood.

But Warren Safety-Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa maintains he intended only to give the business owner a chance to rectify the situation without potentially costing him thousands of dollars.

Instead though, the incident dragged on for months, with fuel trucks being parked at the location on numerous occasions as recently as last month, Blank said.

Article Photos

Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith
Warren resident and Valley View gas station owner Ashrof Isaac stands next to video feed from several of his stores. He has businesses in four states. He said he responded to requests from Warren officials to move his tanker trucks from the parking lot each time he was notified.

Documents provided by city administrators on Wednesday and outlined on a website operated by Blank indicate it was April when Warren Fire Capt. William Smith first noticed the Valley View fuel truck parked on property along Elm Road in the city, a violation of Ohio laws that say fuel trucks may be left unattended in residential areas for no more than an hour.

According to the documents, Smith contacted Ashrof Isaac, owner of Valley View, 1860 Elm Road, about removing the vehicle. Blank reported on his online blog that Smith had told Blank he intended to cite the business, and resulting fines could have reached up to $1,000 a day. Instead, however, Smith said he was ordered by his superiors to hold off in order to give Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa and Fire Chief Ken Nussle an opportunity to talk to the business owner in an attempt to resolve the issue.

“Our goal was not to chase a new business away with citations and fines,” Cantalamessa said. “We wanted to see if we could address the problem without it getting to that point. I was told he would move the trucks.”

But on May 12, Smith again noted two fuel trucks were back at the property.

“I strongly suggested to Enzo that a fire department citation may need to be issued to put a definite end date to this continuing fire code violation and assign fines for this violation and any time subsequent to this day,” Smith wrote in his file. “Enzo stated that he would speak directly to Mr. Isaac, and, in absence of a definite plan on Mr. Isaac’s part to abate this violation, he agreed a citation would be the necessary next step to gain fire code compliance.”

Cantalamessa said he once again talked to the business owner and was told the trucks would no longer be there.

“That was the last I heard about this, until last week when a record request was filed with the fire department,” Cantalamessa said.

That public record request came from Blank.

However, according to Smith’s file, he saw either one or two of the fuel trucks at the Elm Road site at least five times from May 2 through June 5, but was unsuccessful in getting the law department or the safety service director to address the situation. Smith, in his notes, said he was forbidden to issue citations against the business.

He also noted he suggested having the business park their vehicles at the waste water facility, since it is far from a residential area.

Smith noted he mentioned his concerns to Mayor Doug Franklin when he saw him in June. Franklin, Cantalamessa noted, called Isaac that day.

Between June 11 and Aug.7, Smith noted 10 different occasions when he noticed one of more of the tankers in the parking lot. In each report, Smith noted he had been forbidden by Cantalamessa from issuing a fire department citation for violation of the Ohio Fire Code.

On Aug. 7, 13 and 25, Smith issued violations against Valley View for parking gasoline tanker trucks on the property.

Fire Chief Nussle said he was aware of the initial recommendation, but was not contacted again until late August. He was unaware of the file that Smith had been maintaining on his computer.

Smith was not able to speak to the media Wednesday by orders of the administration.

Blank, an independent candidate, will face off against Franklin in the November general election.

He began raising questions in recent weeks about this issue on an online blog he operates, including frustrations with the city’s slow response to his public records request for documents related to the issue.

“These are public records,” Blank said Wednesday. “They are written documents that should have been made available. It is an abuse of power. It is compounded by the fact that the administration did not do what the fire inspector had recommended. They compounded the problem instead of correcting it.”

“What if there had been an explosion,” Blank continued. “The city’s insurance carrier would have dropped it immediately if it would have found the city did not allow the fire inspector to cite the company.”

Kevin Miles, a resident who lives near 1860 Elm Road said he began noticing the tanker trucks sometime in June and July, and contacted the city fire department about it last month.

“I have young children,” Miles said. “I worry about what an explosion would do. It would take out this whole block.”

Contacted Wednesday at his business, Isaac, a longtime area entrepreneur who operates gas and retail businesses in four states, saw the situation differently. Isaac denied breaking the law and said he did not leave the trucks unattended for long periods. He maintains each time he was contacted by Cantalamessa, he had the trucks moved.

“My employees would come here during their shift changes to drop off or fill out paperwork,” Isaac said, noting the tankers in question were empty.

Isaac said he lives in Warren and decided to move his company’s headquarters to the city.

“I have not broken the law,” he said. “I do not know why this Blank would want to hurt a businessman who is bringing jobs into the area.”

Blank said he attempted to tell Isaac that his concern was less with him, than with the administration’s lack of action

 

Posted Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 under Crime.

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