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Published: Saturday, 12/6/2008

Genoa bar owner files lawsuit against village

BY CHAUNCEY ALCORN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

GENOA - A local bar owner yesterday filed a lawsuit in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court against the village of Genoa, its mayor, Mark Williams, and its new police chief, Randy Hill, among others, claiming his business is being harassed, causing him to lose money.

Eric Hise, owner of the Bharmacy, 621 Main St., claims in his complaint that Mayor Williams has specifically instructed police to harass him and his business by visiting his bar and parking their squad cars in front of his business for long periods of time to intimidate his customers.

"The loss of [customers] has led to lost income, profit, and the eminent failure of the business," the complaint states.

Mayor Williams was unavailable for comment.

But Chief Hill said the so-called harassment actually is an increased effort by local police to be more "community-oriented," to open lines of communication between residents and the police.

Chief Hill declined to comment about the specific accusations, but said the increased presence was a policy he implemented when took over as chief in October.

"This is one of the tools I'd like to use to open up communication with the community," he said. "It's mainly to go out and have officers introduce themselves. If [residents] want to talk with them, sit down, and have lunch, it doesn't really matter to me as long as they're out to converse with the public."

Mr. Hise said during a telephone interview yesterday that the increased police presence initially took place only at local bars, but recently, after his complaints, was disbursed among other businesses as well.

He said village officials' true intent is to eliminate drunken driving by intimidating people from visiting the bars.

His complaint states the police department's policy is selectively enforced against him and that his bar receives more visits than other businesses.

"What is your reaction when armed police come walking into a bar?" he asked. "I don't have a problem with them being there if there is a complaint, which there's never been, or if there's a warrant, which there's never been.

"They're in there disturbing [customers] The police might have an objective, but that doesn't change the end result," he said.

Chief Hill said he cannot recall any arrests being made at the Bharmacy since he started his job.

Mr. Hise's complaint also accuses Mayor Williams of implementing the new police policy because the mayor "dislikes [Mr. Hise] for exercise of his free speech and disapproves of alcoholic consumption."

Chief Hill said city officials will confer next week to decide how to respond to the lawsuit.

Contact Chauncey Alcorn at:

calcorn@theblade.com

or 419-724-6168.



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