UPDATE: Put-in-Bay Mayor Bernard McCann responded Friday through an attorney to Thursday’s police raids at village hall, as well as property linked to him and a business partner.
The statement, sent by attorney Amanda Andrews, says that the mayor “has not engaged in any wrongdoings while in his position as Mayor of the Village of Put-in-Bay.” Ms. Andrews heralds the benefits the island has seen because of the families under scrutiny, saying they have made Put-in-Bay the “tourist capital of Ohio.”
She called the raids a “Hollywood-like scene,” said the search warrants were “baseless,” and that the mayor “anxiously awaits the truth.”
“The McCann and Blummensaadt families have done nothing more than generate a significant amount of income for local residents in which they employ; a high percentage of taxation revenue for Ottawa County; and provide entertainment for visitors and travelers from all over the world,” she wrote. “At no time has either family engaged in financial misconduct whatsoever.”
Original story below.
PUT-IN-BAY — Police investigating allegations of public corruption raided village hall, as well as homes and businesses Thursday tied to the mayor and a prominent businessman.
A complaint to the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s office led to a joint Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Ohio Ethics Commission investigation. While an Ohio Attorney General’s office spokesman could not give specific details of the investigation, a letter sent in April by Ottawa County Prosecutor James VanEerten described "allegations of theft, conflicts of interest, illegal contract awards, among other possible allegations of mishandling of financial matters."
Locations searched were: 431 Catawba Ave., 435 Catawba Ave., 784 Cooper Drive, 804 Cooper Drive, and 234 Delaware Ave. in Put-in-Bay, as well as 211 E. 2nd St. and 3 N. Monroe St. in Port Clinton.
The first two addresses are the municipal building where city offices and the police department are located. The Cooper Drive addresses are for a residence of Todd Blumensaadt, president of ferry service Jet Express, and the Monroe Street address is for Jet Express. The 2nd Street address is for Port Clinton law director and village legal counsel George Wilber. The Delaware Avenue address is for the Park Hotel, owned by Mayor Bernard McCann, although in 2012 he transferred ownership to a limited liability corporation called Loraine Properties, according to Ottawa County Auditor records.
Jet Express was started in 1989 by four partners, and is operated by majority owner Mr. Blumensaadt and the McCann family.
Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General, said Mr. VanEerten sent a request in the spring to the office regarding a complaint from Keith Blumensaadt, Todd Blumensaadt’s brother. Keith Blumensaadt, who is incarcerated at the Ottawa County jail, has declined through an attorney to talk.
Cleveland attorney Michael Lear, who is representing Keith Blumensaadt in a criminal case, shut down an interview with his client on Friday.
"I can’t let you interview him," he said. "He obliviously has charges pending against him and I don't want him to make any statements."
Mr. Lear also declined to comment on the state investigation that was spurred by his client's complaint.
A public records request by The Blade for details of the complaint was denied. The request, dated April 13, said the allegations made were against both village and law enforcement officials.
In June, the AG’s office and the Ethics Commission opened a joint investigation after determining there was enough evidence to warrant one, Mr. Tierney said. While he would not comment about what specifically law enforcement is investigating, he said that this type of investigation is significantly made up of financial records and documents.
“[These types of investigations] do take time to do properly,” he said.
Investigators were at the locations from Thursday morning until the evening. Dave Pauly, special agent supervisor for BCI, would not elaborate on the investigation.
“The hard documentation, all of those documents have been seized already, but now we are imaging computers...so we should be here another six or seven hours,” he said earlier Thursday afternoon.
BCI investigators who swarmed several locations in Port Clinton and Put-in-Bay throughout the day Thursday had little to say.
“There were allegations of possible impropriety in the way business was conducted for the village, which is about all I can say,” said Jeff Cook, BCI special agent supervisor for the warrant that was served at village hall.
Mr. McCann did not return a message Thursday. Mr. Cook could not put a time frame on the investigation, just that it wouldn’t be done anytime soon.
“There’s a lot to do yet,” he said.
Mr. Blumensaadt was visibly angered when he came out of his house to talk to a Blade reporter. He said investigators showed up at 8 a.m. with the warrant and started taking paperwork out of the house. He pinned the investigation on a grudge by his brother.
The warrant, which Mr. Blumensaadt showed to a Blade reporter, requested all documentation between Mr. Blumensaadt, Mr. McCann, and both the men's businesses between Jan. 1, 2010, and the present. The warrants ask for the same documentation related to Mr. Wilber.
Besides the Jet and his construction company, Mr. Blumensaadt owns Mossbacks bar and restaurant, The Fish Bowl, First Island Co., and Island Port Co., the warrant states. Mr. McCann owns several island businesses as well, including Boathouse Properties, the Park Hotel, Crew's Nest Properties, the Chicken Patio, the Round House Bar, and the Put-in-Bay Winery.
The warrant also included copies of any of his tax filings, and any “order forms, contracts and agreements, invoices or payments” between Blumensaadt and his construction company and the village from Jan. 1, 2010 to present.
He said his brother alleged that he was getting favors in the form of construction contracts with the village through his business, Put-in-Bay Investments.
"Since me and Mr. McCann were partners at one time they think that work was given to me because we were partners at one time," he said.
"I'm morally dumbfounded. I am sickened," he said. "Does the right hand really know what the left hand is doing?
Nicole DeFreitas, sales and marketing director for Jet Express, said that BCI agents came to the business at about 8 a.m. Thursday.
“We are not really sure exactly what’s going on,” Ms. DeFreitas said. “We are cooperating.”
Put-in-Bay has seen its fair share of controversy in recent years. Village residents raised repeated concerns — and filed lawsuits — in 2014 about what they considered to be unfair and overly aggressive policing under then Chief Ric Lampela, as well as concerns about women patrons at island bars potentially having drugs put in their drinks.
The citizen complaints led to an investigation of the Put-in-Bay Police Department by the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office. That probe resulted in charges against then Chief Lampela, who was found guilty at trial in October, 2015, of disorderly conduct but acquitted of dereliction of duty and falsification. In December, the appellate court threw out the disorderly conduct conviction.
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