Superbowl Sunday 2007. Just after 1 AM. Dino Cantelmi, who just happens to be Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan's brother-in-law, is tooling along in his female companion's late model Volvo, driving the wrong way on a one-way street. He had been drinking earlier that night and slams right into a Bethlehem police cruiser, sending the injured officer to the hospital.
No field sobriety test. No trip to the DUI center. And most amazing of all, no story in the local papers! Details were kept under wraps for over three years, in an obvious effort to protect Hizzoner.
When I found out about this accident, police brass threw up a stone wall, so I filed a formal Right-to-Know-Law (RTKL) request on July 21. In response, City lawyers supplied information they already knew I had, like the incident report. But they ignored my request for the pictures I knew they had taken at the accident scene. They also refused to fork over cell phone records that day for Mayor John Callahan and the Police Commissioner. City lawyer Chris Cooper tells me, "The City maintains records of cell phone invoices, however individual cell phone records are not kept in the normal course of business. Therefore, the record you request does not exist and the City is not required to compile a non existing record pursuant to Pennsylvania Right to Know Law section 705."
Of course, that's bullshit. I appealed this refusal to the Office of Open Records. Appeals Officer Lucinda Glinn must have thought the City's refusal was bullshit, too. She gave them until yesterday to "clarify what efforts were undertaken to obtain the cell phone records requested from the telephone company and describe the records available as pertain to the numbers assigned to the named individuals on the stated date. Be sure to substantiate all asserted facts regarding the existence and attempts to obtain responsive records. As to the appeal of the allegedly partial incident report, please advise whether any pictures were taken as part of the incident report, and if so, explain why the pictures were not supplied."
Well, it's a miracle! It's right up there with the Immaculate Conception and Tang. On July 26, the City may have insisted those records were nonexistent and they have no obligation to produce nonexistent records, but they were just kidding. Yesterday, on the last possible day to come forward City lawyers coughed up those nonexistent records. Chris Cooper now tells me, "we continued to seek all the records you requested." He swears out an Affidavit and everything! Isn't that nice of him?
Of course, he redacts the hell out of the cell phone records, blotting out every private call. But hey, it's the thought that counts.
Callahan's cell phone record indicate he made or received no calls at all on Superbowl Sunday 2007, although there are plenty of calls before and after that date. Commissioner Miller's phone records reveal that someone left three messages for him that day. I'll be looking at them a little more closely over the next few days, but am naturally suspicious there may be even more "nonexistent" records out there. I sure hope Chris keeps looking, and in the meantime, I'll take these records to someone who understands them and can explain them to me. I'm reluctant to post cell phone numbers on this site for obvious reasons.
The pictures you see reveal this was no minor fender bender. But amazingly, Callahan's brother-in-law walked away with two summary citations, which he quickly and quietly paid.