It appears that Plain Dealer
reporter Mark Puente is running into trouble with Lorain Police, though the union says it ain't true. This from today's Lorain Morning Journal
President of FOP disputes harassment allegations
By JENNIFER BRACKEN, Morning Journal Writer
LORAIN -- Lorain Faternal Order of Police Lodge 3 President Buddy Sivert is disputing allegations by a Plain Dealer reporter that he has been harassed by police officers.
''Ninety-five percent of the people in our department don't know what Mark Puente looks like, let alone what his family looks like,'' Sivert said. ''Our officers would not do anything to make his family feel threatened.''
The Plain Dealer Managing Editor Thomas O'Hara wrote a letter to Lorain city officials alleging that Lorain police officers were lurking around Puente's family at a Lorain Admiral King High School football game and in a separate incident air was let out of Puente's vehicle tires while parked at the Lorain City Hall parking lot.
After a preliminary investigation by the Lorain Police Department showed there was no merit to the allegations, Lorain police Chief Cel Rivera forwarded the allegations to the FBI in Cleveland. The FBI is investigating the incidences and alleged threats, according to an FBI spokesman.
O'Hara has said Puente is working on an investigative piece about the Lorain Police Department. Puente is trying to connect the dots between several lawsuits ''floating'' around, according to O'Hara.
Sivert said Puente has obtained police officers' personal cell phone numbers, pager numbers and home phone numbers, and left messages with their family members.
''He has done this over the last two weeks, leaving messages saying he needs comments because they are going to be in the paper,'' Sivert said, adding that all the officers' numbers are unlisted. ''Naturally, the police officers are upset about that and don't appreciate being called at home.''
O'Hara said Puente was doing his duty as a reporter by obtaining phone numbers needed to get the information he needs.
Sivert said he believes Puente made the allegations in an effort to generate publicity for his story.
O'Hara denied that and said he believed it was appropriate to alert officials to what had been going on.
''I thought with the sum total of the events, it was prudent to alert the folks in Lorain, and that was the sole purpose of my communication,'' O'Hara said.
Sivert said the police anticipated being cleared of wrongdoing in the article.
''They would never do anything to jeopardize their jobs,'' he said about police officers. ''The officers are looking forward to the article so they can be vindicated of his threats.''
Puente has allegedly made several accusations of wrong doing to police department personnel from ''tips'' he received from an inside source, Sivert said.
''He needs to get some proof before saying these things,'' Sivert said. ''We have had officers who were investigated, disciplined and even fired for their actions on the job. Three have been criminally charged. There's no new news there. How can he question our integrity and say we are covering things up and that we're thieves?''
The bottom line, Sivert said, is that Puente is distracting Lorain police officers from doing their jobs and hurting the morale of the police department.
''Why target the Lorain Police Department?'' he said. ''I think he's trying to damage our police officers in their personal and professional lives.''
Lorain police Chief Cel Rivera has spoken to the officers during briefing sessions to encourage them to continue doing what they are in the city to do, Sivert said.
''He's telling them to keep working and don't worry about what someone is going to print in the paper,'' he said. ''Generally, things were picking up morale-wise and now he makes people not want to go out there because they are worried about false claims.''
Morning Journal Writer Megan King contributed to this story.