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League defends member's actions



Published: Wed, August 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The mayor placed two 911 telephone calls.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Citizens League of Greater Youngstown is not only defending one of its own, but is trying to turn the tables on Mayor George M. McKelvey, saying he was attending a questionable meeting when a league member was spotted using binoculars and a notepad.

McKelvey and other local politicians and community leaders met Saturday for a private lunch at Anthony's On the River. The meeting was the monthly get-together of what is known as the Cafaro roundtable. The roundtable brings together prominent local leaders to discuss politics, current events, policy and the Mahoning Valley, and was first established by the late William Cafaro, the patriarch of the mall-developing family.

"The issue is more than the incident at Anthony's," said Tom Zamary, the league's secretary. "It's about these Cafaro meetings. We're interested in who shows up at these meetings and what goes on at them. There's a bigger issue here and it's the meetings."

The league is a political watchdog organization.

Calls to 911: Shortly after arriving at the Saturday lunch, McKelvey said someone spotted a man outside the restaurant on the ground with something in his hand.

McKelvey called 911, identified himself as the mayor, and said there was a suspicious character -- possibly a sniper -- outside the restaurant and a cruiser should be sent over immediately.

When a cruiser did not get there after seven minutes, McKelvey called again and told the 911 dispatcher, "If I can't get somebody, I don't know who can." A patrol car came 13 minutes after the first call.

McKelvey said that when he saw the police car coming he left the restaurant, got the instant camera he carries in his car to take pictures of dilapidated houses and troubled spots in the city, and took a few pictures of the man.

League president: The mayor then realized it was Robert Fitzer, a former league president, a member of the group's board of directors, and the host of a local political radio show. McKelvey had appeared on Fitzer's show two weeks ago.

The object in Fitzer's hand was a pair of binoculars. He also had a notebook.

Fitzer was questioned by police and not charged.

McKelvey said Fitzer, who could not be reached to comment Tuesday, said he was bird watching. But the mayor said he saw names of people at the lunch and license plate numbers on Fitzer's notepad.

Zamary said if Fitzer was watching people coming in and out of the restaurant, there is nothing wrong with that.

"He was on public property," he said. "Fitzer was in his rights as a citizen to do that. I'm concerned how it's been characterized."

The citizens league's executive committee will meet as early as next week to discuss the issue and is expected to make a statement at that time, Zamary said.

Radio broadcasts: The league sent a letter Tuesday to WKBN-AM radio seeking copies of two programs broadcast Monday that featured McKelvey talking about Fitzer. The request was denied by radio management.

McKelvey said he would have invited Fitzer to attend the lunch if he had asked.

He also said he would be willing to appear on Dan Ryan's WKBN show with Fitzer, Zamary and other league members to discuss the matter and the lunch.

"They want to attack people eating lunch?" McKelvey said of the citizens league. "What type of individuals would defend this type of behavior by Fitzer? In my opinion, it's indefensible."

McKelvey said others attending the lunch included Anthony Cafaro, Cafaro Co. president; Trumbull County Commissioner James Tsagaris; former state Sen. Harry Meshel; and U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge William T. Bodoh.

The mayor said he is reviewing stalking laws to see if charges could be filed against Fitzer.

skolnick@vindy.com




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