Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Search for dirt angers Put-in-Bay

Officials feel duped by political trickery

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — The police chief and mayor of Put-in-Bay, a Lake Erie island village, are steaming over the conduct of a Butler County prosecutor's investigator.

        They say village officials believed that Investigator J.C. Kristanoff had taken a chartered plane there in February on official business — and later learned he was digging up dirt on his boss' political opponent, Robin Piper.

        “I'm greatly offended that someone would pretend to be on a legitimate policing action if it wasn't,” said Mayor John Blatt. “They came up, they apparently didn't tell the truth, they got the information they wanted and away they went. And I would think we would be hesitant to tell that county anything in the future.”

        The officials' ire is the latest controversy in an ugly political battle for the seat that Prosecutor John F. Holcomb, the sole Democrat holding countywide office in Butler County, has held for 27 years.

        Mr. Holcomb, who didn't return a call seeking comment Monday, has come under fire because of his “2 Percent Club” of political contributions from his own employees. Mr. Piper's past drug use became an issue after documents from Put-in-Bay were leaked to a TV station in Cincinnati — 300 miles away — last month.

        While Mr. Holcomb's investigator denies any misrepresentations to authorities in Put-in-Bay, Police Chief Jim Lang said Mr. Kristanoff handed Capt. Beverly Adair his county business card on Feb. 8 and asserted that he was on an official investigation.

        So village officials went out of their way to find documents about Mr. Piper's 1981 minor misdemeanor marijuana citation, for which he paid a $60 fine by mail. They even searched “the grungy section” of the Town Hall's basement, Mayor

        Blatt said.

        “By using his color of authority, he procured their extra effort and got the whole town hopping on what they thought was a legitimate criminal investigation, when in reality it was just a private political bomb run,” Mr. Piper said Monday.

        The documents Mr. Kristanoff obtained aren't readily available because many of the village's records are destroyed after seven years, Chief Lang said. Mr. Piper noted that Put-in-Bay police had previously told his supporters that records from so long ago no longer existed — a response Mr. Piper suspects Mr. Kristanoff would have received “if he were just a Joe Blow.”

        Citing three possible violations of Ohio law, including falsification of information to a public official, Mr. Piper, an attorney, wants a criminal investigation into Mr. Kristanoff's activities.

        But in Put-in-Bay — which 415 people called home at the time of the 1990 U.S. Census — officials say they don't want to get involved.

        “We have jobs to do up here and we don't need to be wasting time on this particular situation,” Village Attorney Richard Gillum said Monday.

        The $1,300 trip, which included lunch with Capt. Adair, was paid by Mr. Holcomb's campaign fund. Mr. Kristanoff says he went voluntarily, “on my own time,” on a vacation day.

        However, under an access code registered to Mr. Kristanoff, six phone calls were made from the prosecutor's office to Put-in-Bay between Feb. 8 and Feb. 28, county records show.

        The actual cost of the calls was less than $4, but Mr. Piper criticized the use of county time and equipment for political purposes as “outrageous.”

        Mr. Piper also pointed out that a Feb. 14 letter from the Put—in-Bay Police Department, regarding a document about Mr. Piper, was sent to the prosecutor's mailing address. “If he's doing this on his own time, for the prosecutor's campaign committee, then why is he using the prosecutor's office to make the calls and get the mail?” Mr. Piper asked.

        Mr. Kristanoff acknowledges he thanked Put-in-Bay police for their assistance and promised to share with them the results of his investigation, as Capt. Adair's April 13 report reflects.

        “Kristanoff kept telling all of us that we had really helped him in his investigation on this subject (Mr. Piper), but he couldn't tell us what was going on with this subject,” her report says.

        But Mr. Kristanoff says he never tried to mislead anyone.

        “If they got the idea that I was doing anything cockeyed, then they probably — they assumed it,''he said. “It wasn't anything I said.”


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