Commissioner Gipson’s Two Cents
by Geoff Kelly - posted 11:40 am, June 11, 2009
In today’s print edition is a story I wrote about a dispute between Leonard Fink, a restorer of classic cars with a shop on Ontario Street, and attorney Frank Longo, who wouldn’t pay the bill Fink gave him for work done on Longo’s 1972 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. Fink says that Longo took the car without paying the bill, encouraged by Buffalo police officers, who watched as Longo drove the car away, despite Fink’s insistence that he had an express mechanic’s lien on the car until the billing dispute was settled.
I tried on Tuesday to get a comment about the police part in all this from Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, and about attempts by Fink and other parties to draw Gipson’s attention to the matter. BPD spokesman Mike DeGeorge couldn’t get me an answer until after our print deadline on Wednesday, so I’m posting DeGeorge’s answer here and now:
I spoke with the commissioner. He says he is not aware of this situation. And he doesn’t personally know either Frank Longo or Leonard Fink. He said he might’ve met either in passing but can’t be sure of that. As far as a letter dated August 1st, the commissioner does not remember it. Police do respond to calls of ‘property dispute”; hundreds or even thousands each year. For example in June 2007, there were approximately 215 “calls of service” for property disputes. The number of cars responding is not out of the ordinary, depending on cars in the area when the call comes out and what else is happening at that time in that district.
The letter referred to was written by Fink to Gipson, asking him to look into the role his officers played in Longo removing the car from his lot. A retired BPD officer subsequently spoke to Gipson personally about the dispute, on Fink’s behalf, asking him to look into the whole affair.
Although this response addresses a couple of the questions I put to the commissioner, it fails to address several others: Did the officers act correctly in ignoring the signed mechanic’s lien? Did the officers act correctly in intervening as they did in a dispute over a bill? Did the officers act correctly in helping Longo to drive away in a car on which Fink may have had a lien?