Play on, playa!
That, essentially, was an arbitrator's ruling last week in the case of Painesville cop Stuart Underwood, who was fired last year for rocking the world of his mistress while on duty. Underwood's flame claimed they had sex on numerous occasions while he was supposed to be patrolling the mean streets.
While admitting to an occasional dalliance, Underwood said that his ex-lover inflated and fabricated most of the stories as revenge for getting dumped. But that's all good, ruled arbitrator Dennis Minni. He ordered the cop reinstated.
The sex, Minni wrote, was no more distracting than "a nap, playing a video game, working a crossword puzzle, or standing in line at a bank or store . . .," apparently normal behavior in the law-enforcement field. "Even Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry took the time to take a last bite from his hot dog before leaving the restaurant to confront the bank robber he saw while eating," Minni added.
While Punch believes the arbitrator's managerial theories are sorely needed at Scene, Bob Baetzel, Painesville's human-resources director and chief player-hater, was baffled by the ruling. "All I can figure is that we have different value systems," he says. "I think police are held to a higher standard than your average employee."
Come on, Bob. Don't hate the player. Hate the game.
Dead man walking
When we last left Herman Ohms ("Ghost in the House," April 13), the 91-year-old man was walking past his growing pile of feces to get some water from a well behind his haunted house. But that image didn't sit well with many readers. Letters poured in for directions to his house. People wanted to bring him food, water, maybe even an outhouse.
So Punch checked back with Stark County Adult Services -- which had closed its investigation into Ohms' living conditions. Since the article ran, his case has been reopened, but don't expect to see Ohms in a nursing home anytime soon.
Case worker Rhiannon Bickart says that Ohms refuses any assistance, and his doctor won't sign an incompetence waiver allowing her to intervene. They can't even clean the place, because there's no running water. He subsists on a small kickback from an oil well on his property and deliveries from elderly neighbors.
"I'm trying to get him as much help as he will accept," says Bickart. "We're trying to get him food stamps. And the auditor lowered his property taxes."
But, adds a frustrated Bickart, "I think he wants to live like that until the day he dies."
When it isn't busy trying to blow up or black out the Midwest -- or paying record fines to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- FirstEnergy likes to give back to the community.
It just doesn't like giving very much.
For the second straight baseball season, the company is donating $250 to the Ronald McDonald House for every home run hit at Jacobs Field . . . by an Indian . . . over the FirstEnergy sign in right-center. The company wanted to limit the deal to homers hit on Tuesdays by guys named Filipe, but Ronald guilted 'em out of it.
So far, Tribe bats are quiet this year, so the kids have only earned . . . well, nothing. But the homers will start flying soon. After all, last year the Indians launched eight shots over the sign, netting sick kids a whopping $2,000.
And since two grand amounts to approximately .00000016 percent of FirstEnergy's annual revenues, how could it possible give more?
Sneaking a bomb into City Hall is easier than smuggling a pop into a movie theater, according to a recent investigation by the First Punch Covert Operative Team.
It seems that a super-secret underground passageway connects City Hall and the Convention Center across the street. According to legend, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan used the tunnel to go back and forth during the 1980 presidential debate.
But when Punch asked if we could get a look-see, the City Hall guard looked at us as if we were a 14-year-old trying to buy an issue of Barely Legal. "That's only for City Hall employees," he gruffed.
This, of course, offered little deterrence to Punch's highly trained operatives, who would receive extra rations of Jim Beam for completing the mission. A nice lady at the Convention Center was much more helpful. "It's in the basement," she said nonchalantly.
There, our team was intercepted by a fork-lift operator. "Down the hall, through the doors on the left," he pointed. That's where we found the tunnel entrance, conveniently marked "City Hall" in bright orange letters, just in case any terrorists received bad directions from Mapquest. After passing under Lakeside Avenue and climbing the stairs, we were inside City Hall and free to roam.
Then we stumbled upon the same crack security guard. He wasn't laughing. "That's how stuff gets blown up," said a fellow guard.
You don't say?
The trials of youth
Adelle Waldman was willing to give up everything for her journalism career. She even moved to Cleveland!
Waldman, who worked for eight months at The Plain Dealer before fleeing back to New York City, recently chronicled her painful experience in The Wall Street Journal. Her impressions of Cleveland are less than flattering.
What horrors did Ms. Waldman encounter here in the Third World? She lived in a desolate downtown loft! Everyone in Cleveland is old and married! She realized that Cleveland isn't N.Y.C.!
The most illuminating part of Waldman's column is her description of her 1,000-plus novel collection, which she keeps in alphabetical order -- a sure sign that she's someone used to trolling the high seas for wild party adventures.
But Clevelanders, being the defensive sort, nonetheless pelted Waldman with angry e-mails, deeming her a whiny snob and rescinding invitations to their annual Backyard Pierogi Fest & Drunk-a-thons. PD Deputy Business Editor John Kroll then rose to her defense on a journalism website, hailing her as a risk-taker for throwing away a cushy job for the cutthroat New York freelancing world.
Punch attempted to contact Waldman, but she was busy penning her latest Wall Street Journal epic, "Canton: It's Really Hard to Find the Subway Here," and could not come to the phone.