Magistrate declines to issue injunction against Youngstown
By Peter H. Milliken
A magistrate has declined to issue a preliminary injunction barring the city from its purported selective enforcement of city ordinances against a South Side towing company.
Magistrate Daniel Dascenzo of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court issued his ruling in response to the towing company’s request for the injunction against the city.
The injunction request accompanied Bugno Towing and Recovery’s April 1 civil lawsuit against the city and its top officials, which alleges the city and its police have been harassing the company in an attempt to destroy its business.
Although he said an injunction would have been “an extraordinary remedy,” which he declined to issue, Magistrate Dascenzo said Bugno’s lawsuit, which seeks more than $275,000 in damages, would proceed toward a trial on the merits of its harassment and selective enforcement claims.
The evidence presented in support of Bugno’s claims “does not, in this court’s opinion, warrant an order of injunction against the city, precluding it from its right to enforce its laws as they are written,” Dascenzo ruled from the bench at the end of a Thursday hearing.
The lawsuit says the city has been citing the towing company for violating a city ordinance that forbids towing companies from responding to accident scenes unless they are summoned there by police or a party to the accident.
“The constitutionality of the ordinance is not currently before this court,” Dascenzo noted.
“It was the appropriate decision. It’s rarely, if ever, appropriate for a preliminary injunction to be used to enjoin a governmental entity from enforcing its laws,” said Anthony Farris, city law director.
Bugno’s lawyer, Matthew C. Giannini, declined to comment on the decision.
The lawsuit, which demands a jury trial, alleges the harassment has included “unwarranted investigatory stops, arrests, towing of plaintiff’s vehicles, citations for unsubstantiated zoning violations and the like.”
During his testimony, Alex Bugno, company owner, acknowledged that there are two cases related to his business, which are pending against him in Youngstown Municipal Court, one charging him with obstructing official business at an accident scene and another charging him with failure to yield to a firetruck by passing it on Interstate 680 at excessive speed while it was en route to an accident.
Concerning the obstructing charge, Bugno said a driver at the scene of a single-car accident authorized him to tow her vehicle, but a police officer wouldn’t let him and detained him as he was leaving the scene. Bugno acknowledged he had not been called to the scene but learned of the crash on the police scanner.
Concerning the failure-to-yield charge, Bugno said he was driving only 43 mph, and the fire truck was not using its sirens.
Besides the city and Farris, the lawsuit lists as defendants Mayor Charles P. Sammarone, Police Chief Rod Foley and Finance Director David Bozanich.