Metro Parks Corruption Exposed
The purpose of this website is to expose corruption and criminal activity by personnel within, or connected with, Metro Parks Serving Summit County, a park district located in and around Akron, Ohio. The story of the Metro Parks starts out as a case of animal cruelty (to be viewed at www.AkronDeerTorture.com), but quickly widens to demonstrate that those who are willing to abuse animals will often resort to any measures – including crime – to hide it.
SHARK's confiscated cameras are literally bagged and tagged as evidence at Metro Parks headquarters.
In February 2004, Metro Parks Serving Summit County began the slaughter of semi-tame deer, claiming there were too many of them. Metro Parks contracted with White Buffalo, Inc., owned by Anthony DeNicola. White Buffalo kills animals for profit, usually by gunshot. Interestingly, White Buffalo refers to this process as “remote euthanasia.”
Click the video to view the undercover footage caught by SHARK's confiscated cameras. This is what Ohio's Metro Parks doesn't want the public to see.
The planned deer slaughter was highly controversial, with many deer-loving Summit County residents in opposition. Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) responded by placing surveillance video cameras in some of the parks. The cameras recorded graphic video footage of the slaughter, and caused public outcry. Video footage of the killing may also be viewed at www.AkronDeerTorture.com. MetroParksCorruption.com deals with the criminal behavior and attempted cover-up that occurred after the discovery and confiscation of some of SHARK’s surveillance cameras.
On the night of February 29, a week into the deer slaughter, park rangers discovered a SHARK surveillance video camera/recorder in the Munroe Falls Metro Park. Panicked rangers began a long and frenzied search throughout the parks involved in the slaughter. In all, eight SHARK surveillance cameras/recorders were found and confiscated from three parks, although Metro Parks admits to seizing only six. The six camera/recorders were secured in an Evidence Locker at Metro Parks headquarters, and there they should have stayed until there was official movement in the case. That’s not what happened.
According to Metro Parks document “Report of Investigation,” on March 1, 2004, Metro Parks’ contract deer killer Anthony DeNicola collaborated with two Metro Parks rangers -- David Rankin and Justin Simon -- to access the evidence locker and delete video documentation on SHARK’s recorders. Such an act constitutes Evidence Tampering, which is a felony according to Ohio State Law. The Report of Investigation, written by Metro Parks Chief of Rangers Ray Dickson, includes the following excerpt:
DENICOLA apologized about how the situation had turned out on the cameras. He said he didn’t want Dave and Justin to get into trouble, he had contacted his attorney, and would take full responsibility for erasing the video cameras found at Munroe falls and Cascade Valley. I told DeNicola he didn’t have to make any statements to me. I informed him that Metro Parks has Lost and Found Operating Procedures and if rangers had not followed them they would be disciplined and if property that was found while on duty was tampered with I would seek advice from the prosecutor on what charges could be filed. I informed DENICOLA that all park rangers, including myself, were commissioned law enforcement officers, and he didn’t have to say anything else.
DENICOLA said that he had seen Dave Rankin’s personal vehicle on one of the video cameras when he came to the ranger office and was concerned for Rankin and Simon’s safety. DENICOLA told me that he and his staff had in the past received death threats from animal rights activists. They had their vehicle tires flattened and had equipment stolen and vandalized.
DENICOLA said he came to the ranger office and talked with Rankin and Simon about the threats and danger to themselves and “the decision was made to erase the cameras.”
It should be noted that when Mr. DeNicola talks about his illegal activity, Chief Dickson repeatedly tries to get DeNicola to STOP TALKING -- odd behavior to say the least from a law enforcement officer. What never shows up in Chief Dickson’s report is how Rangers Rankin and Simon got into the evidence locker since Metro Parks records do NOT indicate that either ranger had a key. When we asked Chief Ranger Dickson who might have given Rankin and Simon a key, he refused to answer. When we asked Dickson if he had a key, he again refused to answer.
Apparently Metro Parks and White Buffalo personnel thought that by seizing and deleting SHARK’s video recorders, there would be no video footage of the Metro Park slaughter. They were wrong. SHARK investigators had been videotaping for a week before their equipment was found, and there were plenty of documentation challenging the notion that the deer kill was fast or humane, as Metro Parks had promised. The deer killers' desperate attempts to cover up their animal abuse served no purpose but to compound their public relations problems with possible criminal prosecution.
In no time, video footage of shot, but still living deer writhing and struggling in the Metro Parks was on most television news shows in Akron and Cleveland. Metro Parks authorities, embarrassed and angered by the graphic and damning video footage taken right under the noses of parks rangers, attempted to find some kind of criminal charges -- anything at all -- to use against SHARK investigators. Unconcerned, SHARK president Steve Hindi voluntarily allowed Chief Ranger Dickson to question him extensively about SHARK’s activities. Dickson made it very plain that he was not the unbiased upholder of Metro Parks rules, but instead was searching every avenue imaginable to pin some variety of crime on Hindi. Dickson's efforts were unsuccessful.
Dickson’s questioning of Hindi was very different from his treatment of deer killer Anthony DeNicola. When DeNicola admitted deleting SHARK video footage from recorders held in evidence, Dickson tried repeatedly to make DeNicola stop talking. When DeNicola persisted and admitted criminal activity, Dickson did not arrest him or take any action against him.
Consider Metro Parks’ treatment of rangers Dave Rankin and Justin Simon; DeNicola’s partners in the Evidence Tampering scheme. Both were disciplined for what was called, “serious misconduct in violating the established work practices, policies and procedures of the Park District...” Their punishment? Two days suspension without pay – that's it! Even more curious was the subsequent treatment of Dave Rankin. Within days of being disciplined for his part in the Evidence Tampering scheme, Rankin was actually promoted!
It wasn’t until March 30, 2004 that SHARK was allowed to have its surrveillance equipment back. An appointment was set up between Chief Ranger Dickson and SHARK president Steve Hindi, each of whom arranged to have an attorney present. The verbal agreement between Dickson and Hindi called for both parties to carefully check out the equipment, in order to avoid false claims regarding the condition of the equipment or its digital contents at a later time. Dickson made no mention of his direct knowledge that the contents of the recorders had been deleted a month earlier.
When Dickson, Hindi, and their attorneys met, Chief Ranger Dickson and Metro Parks attorney John Reyes refused to participate in the equipment check, or even to allow Steve to check it himself. Reyes stated that: "he was being paid by the people, and he wasn't about to waste their money." Incredulous over the bait and switch tactics, Steve and his attorney Ed Sawan repeatedly tried to enlist the cooperation of Dickson and Reyes, but to no avail. Reyes insisted that Hindi sign for the equipment and leave. Finally Ed Sawan suggested that Steve take the equipment and check it outside. Steve complied.
Steve checked the equipment as soon as he got to his car; even before leaving the Metro Parks parking lot. His worst suspicions were confirmed. All of the video files were deleted. Additionally, three of the six recorders sustained heavy physical damage. This was especially disturbing since the recorders had been in padded bags. Neither the bags nor the other equipment inside the bags showed signs of force used which meant that the recorders had to have been removed from the bags and then deliberately damaged.
The screen of this recorder is jammed to the right. It is even more easily seen in person, so why did Chief Ranger Ray Dixon claim there was no damage? Why didn't he allow the equipment to be checked out before leaving Metro Parks headquarters, and why didn't he admit that the video footage had been deleted?
Predictably, Metro Parks denied responsibility. Dickson claimed that Hindi hadn’t even asked to check out the equipment which is absolutely false. Metro Parks spokesperson Susan Fairweather and Chief Ranger Dickson both claimed that the equipment was undamaged. In a May 21, 2004 letter, Dickson claimed, “In fact, the Metro Parks has no evidence that the recorders sustained any physical damage. Having had the opportunity to view the equipment personally, I can indicate that no such damage was apparent.”
Besides questioning his behavior and judgment in this entire matter, we must now question Chief Dickson’s powers of observation and perception, and offer irrefutable evidence contrary to Dickson’s claims. When Metro Parks was holding SHARK’s equipment, Chief Dickson ordered photographs to be taken. In fact, it is one of those Metro Parks pictures that shows physical damage to a SHARK recorder. The picture (see photo with caption) shows the recorder’s video screen knocked out of position, as well as a broken connector.
Susan Fairweather, who has been the main spokesperson for the Metro Parks, has repeatedly made inaccurate or outright false statements to the media. So far there appears to be no Metro Parks decision makers interested in correcting Ms. Fairweather’s misstatements, or in correcting the misstatements of others at Metro Parks.
Unfortunately, the highly questionable conduct of Akron-area officials does not stop with Metro Parks officials. In April, Steve Hindi wrote a letter to Akron City Prosecutor Doug Powley asking him to press charges for Evidence Tampering against Metro Parks rangers and Anthony DeNicola. Powley responded with a letter insisting that SHARK personnel show up in person to file complaints. For some reason a phoned complaint was not acceptable to Mr. Powley in spite of the fact that he already had the evidence of criminal activity in Chief Ranger Dickson’s report.
On June 1, 2004 Steve Hindi and SHARK investigator Colleen Gardner appeared at Mr. Powley’s office, only to have Powley’s deputy, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Tom Dicaudo refuse to take our complaint. Dicaudo also told Hindi and Gardner that they should expect no help from the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office or the Akron Police Department. Mr. Dicaudo gave no explanation as to why he and his boss Mr. Powley are so determined to ignore criminal activity in Metro Parks Serving Summit County.
It is important to note that Hindi traveled from Chicago, Illinois, and Gardner traveled from Salt Lake City, Utah to file the complaint at Mr. Powley’s invitation. Their combined round trips added up to over 4000 miles. Hindi and Gardner’s effort demonstrated their determination to see justice done, while Powley’s broken word showed his determination that justice be denied.
Interestingly, Mr. Dicaudo underestimated the dedication to duty of the Akron Police Department’s detectives who did in fact take a Police Report (PDF). The case was all set for an investigation when a most interesting thing happened. Akron Prosecutor Doug Powley advised police NOT to do their job by telling them NOT to investigate our complaint! This is the same Doug Powley who promised, then refused, to take our complaint after SHARK investigators traveled thousands of miles solely for that purpose.
The question SHARK has posed to Mr. Powley in writing is -- WHY IS THE AKRON PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE PROTECTING CROOKED METRO PARKS RANGERS, ANTHONY DENICOLA AND OTHERS AT METRO PARKS WHO HAVE COMMITTED DOCUMENTED FELONIES? This is NOT a rhetorical question. If Mr. Powley will respond in writing, we will post his response in its entirety on this site. If he doesn’t respond -- and we predict he won’t -- it will be because Mr. Powley has no legitimate defense for his behavior.
Powley apparently forgets that he does not have the final say in this matter and that there are powers considerably greater than his. When someone in Ohio or beyond finally does their job, we will see to it that Mr. Powley’s role as a blockade on the road to justice is not forgotten.
Finally, there is serial deer killer Anthony DeNicola, who according to Chief Ranger Ray Dickson’s Report of Investigation, stated that he, “would take full responsibility for erasing the video cameras...” Apparently Mr. DeNicola has reconsidered those brave words. Mr. DeNicola was contacted by the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper for a comment regarding a police report filed with regard to his deleting of SHARK’s recorders while they were held in evidence. The following excerpt is from a June 3, 2004 article:
Park district reports say that DeNicola, who works for White Buffalo Inc., the Connecticut firm that assisted in shooting the deer, talked the rangers into granting access to the recorders, which had been stored in an evidence locker at the ranger station.
DeNicola refused to confirm or deny that.
Mr. DeNicola is living proof that it is easier to “Talk the Talk” than to “Walk the Walk.” To this latest chapter of the Metro Parks deer slaughter debacle, we can say with some certainty that situations don't build character, they only reveal it.