ABC-hosted mediation doesn’t result in hoped-for handshake

A Peace and Reconciliation Barbecue hosted by ABC News to mediate a years’ long dispute between two Hubbard families did not result in a handshake or a hug. In fact, no reconciliation was reached despite several mediation attempts.

“While they both ultimately agreed to meet in separate rooms, my assessment is they are not ready at this time to engage productively in the process,” retired appellate court judge Billie Colombaro, an arbitrator and mediator, said Saturday.

ABC’s news magazine show “20/20” brought Colombaro in from Manhattan to act as a mediator for the families – the Krlichs and the Clementes – who have been at odds for nearly seven years.

Residents were invited to Chestnut Ridge Park for a picnic provided by Lucky Dogs Hot Dog Shop in Hubbard and to voice their concerns. While residents discussed the allegations of horn honking and harassment, a television crew stood by to film.

Hubbard Township police Chief Todd Koonce had patrol cars on hand in case things got out of hand. He was happy to report that they weren’t needed.

“I’m proud with the way that people conducted themselves today. I did not hear one (horn honk). That says a lot about the community,” he said.

Koonce said police are overwhelmed with disputes between neighbors who just don’t get along, but rarely does it spread to those around them. The horn-honking dispute is different.

“It’s affected the whole community. Hopefully we will move forward from this,” he said.

A representative for ABC said the station began following the case after being approached by Garrick Krlich, and Saturday’s events will be featured in a “20/20” episode scheduled for 10 p.m. Friday.

Bad blood

Garrick Krlich claims that the problems stem from a real estate dispute between himself and former Eagle Joint Fire District Chief John Clemente.

Krlich said that after he placed a bid on the house next door to his – where a relative of Clemente’s lived until her death – Clemente threatened that he and Krlich would be “enemies for life” if Krlich did not withdraw the bid.

What followed is a long list of allegations of harassment – mainly involving, Krlich says, numerous friends and supporters of the fire chief driving past his home and honking their horns at all hours. He claims the horn-honking was instigated by Clemente.

Krlich’s bid was unsuccessful, and Clemente eventually bought the home. Clemente and his wife, Marlene, moved into their family’s home but have since moved to another neighborhood.

They say they have done everything they can think of to put the matter behind them.

“For seven years, we’ve wanted this to end. It has nothing to do with horn honking and everything to do with our land,” Marlene Clemente said.

She said they even offered the home to Krlich, leaving a message for his attorney, but received no response. The Clementes say that proves that Krlich does not want to resolve anything.

Clemente, emotional at times, described the ordeal as another thing to face in addition to his ongoing battle with cancer.

Krlich declined to comment, directing questions to his lawyer. His attorney, Bob Henkin, said the situation can be resolved as long as people defer to the mediator.

The lawsuit

Both families are slated to appear before Trumbull County Common Please Judge Peter Kontos on Wednesday for a defamation lawsuit filed by the Clementes. The case will be heard by a jury if an unrelated criminal case set for Monday in the same court does not go forward.

The lawsuit, filed in 2012, claims personal information was posted to Garrick Krlich’s website and that the Clementes face “immediate and irreparable injury” as well as the threat of having their information stolen and additional threats to their credit.

In May 2012, Law Director Mark Villano sent Krlich a letter requesting that certain information be removed.

Officials said that when Krlich was obtaining copies of incident reports from Hubbard police, some people’s personal information was not redacted. When Krlich gave the reports to the website designer, they were posted as they were, with all the personal information visible.

Krlich was later furnished with different reports.

The lawsuit asks for monetary damages in excess of $25,000; a declaratory judgment against Krlich ordering him to remove the Clementes’ personal information immediately; an award of punitive and / or exemplary damages; a permanent injunction restraining Krlich or others from using, publishing or otherwise disseminating the personal information of the Clementes; and the costs incurred by the lawsuit.

Surveillance

According to Krlich, the honking began in 2007 with a few incidents, but spiraled into a larger problem as others began blowing their horns in front of his East Liberty Street house at all hours.

In February 2009, Krlich began purchasing surveillance cameras, a microphone and digital audio and video recording technology, including a computer with tamper-proof, court-admissible digital coding.

Krlich spent $14,000 on surveillance equipment to record violators and has used the footage when filing hundreds of criminal complaints in Trumbull County. He has ongoing litigation with more than 40 Hubbard and Girard residents and pursued numerous civil protection orders.

Some of the reports are posted to his website, “Small Town Terrorism: The Rick and Cindy Krlich Story,” located at krlich.com.

The neighbors

Although Krlich’s website claims the horn honking is “uninterrupted, unyielding spite,” some of his neighbors say they haven’t heard a thing.

“All these years that I’ve lived out here … nobody has ever blowed a horn. It’s ridiculous,” said Korean War veteran Harry H. McFall, 80, who has lived on Pothour Wheeler Road for most of his life.

McFall did, however, say the nearby intersection at East Liberty Street is a place where such noises might occur.

“There’s bound to be horn blowing. If they don’t blow the horn, there’d be accidents,” he said.

Tess Kniseley, 22, countered that there is truth to Krlich’s claims.

“It is harassment and I don’t know why it’s taken so long for someone to do something about it,” she said after telling Saturday’s crowd that people honked their horns at Krlich while he was visiting her Hubbard Beford Road home for her son’s birthday party.

Diane and Bill Vargo, who live several doors down and across the street from the Krlichs, said they never have been bothered by the blowing of car horns on the street.

“We’re outside a lot. I sleep with my window open every night and I don’t hear anything,” she said.

Donna Morgan of Hubbard, who lives four houses down from the Krlichs, said her small dog, Teddy, was once accused of harassing Garrick Krlich’s dogs.

“The police came to my house and said we were harassing (Krlich). I think it was pretty poor that he did something like that,” she said, adding that her husband was walking the dog on a leash.

“I don’t hear (honking) and I’m four houses away. I think he should drop the issue,” she said.

bhazen@tribtoday.com