October 1, 2014

Elyria
Mostly cloudy
70°F
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Lorain official, police union feud over parking spaces

LORAIN — Sgt. Mark McCoy emerged from the police station Tuesday to find his unmarked cruiser missing from its parking spot.

At first, McCoy thought the cruiser had been stolen, but it turned out it had been moved across the parking lot by order of Safety-Service Director Robert Fowler, who reserved the space for members of Mayor Chase Ritenauer’s administration. Officer Kyle Gelenius, the police union president, said the car was towed and was payback for the union opposing Ritenauer’s proposed changes in police levy payments.

“The administration has declared war on the Police Department,” said Gelenius, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3. “This is just petty. It’s disrespectful to the Police Department.”

Gelenius said Fowler, appointed in January, reserved two spaces used by detectives for administration members in addition to the two Ritenauer had. Gelenius said detectives wanted to have spaces close to the department to more quickly respond to assist patrol officers on priority calls, such as a report of a man with a gun that occurred Tuesday. He said it’s also more convenient when detectives are bringing in handcuffed suspects.

The incident came a day after Gelenius ripped Ritenauer’s plan to decrease the number of police officers paid through the general fund and pay police dispatchers and Lorain City Jail guards with levy money.

Gelenius said the proposal would violate a court order that he said restricts levy money to paying for officers or equipment, or training for officers.

Fowler denied the move was retaliatory.

“That’s comical,” Fowler said. “It’s asinine for whomever to say that.”

Fowler said an employee with a spare key moved the car and that it was not towed. Fowler said police had been warned last week not to park in the spaces and there were up to a dozen other spaces for police to park in.

Fowler said he was surprised Gelenius complained to The Chronicle-Telegram about what Fowler deemed a non-issue.

“It must be a slow news day,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.