The City Council on Monday ordered an investigation into city staff's behavior in connection with the case of Henry 'n Harry's Goat Hill Tavern.
The council specifically wants to know whether a city employee tipped off bar owner Robert R. Ziemer about a neighbor who has led the complaints against the bar, which is struggling to keep a conditional use permit to operate.
Ziemer photographed Sheila Ward as she was being led by paramedics to a waiting ambulance at her Magnolia Avenue home last December. Her second-story apartment faces the back parking lot of several businesses on Newport Boulevard, including the Goat Hill Tavern, 1830 Newport Blvd.
He submitted the photos of Ward to the City Council at its July 16 meeting, he said, to disprove an entry in Ward's diary that noted disturbances at the bar. Ziemer, in a note submitted to the council, said the pictures were taken Dec. 20, the same day Ward noted complaints about honking, yelling, screaming and car alarms going off in the parking lot.
However, Ward admits she erred logging the the date of those complaints.
Mayor Peter F. Buffa, who called for the investigation, said he wants to find out whether any city employee alerted Ziemer that an ambulance and paramedics had been dispatched to Ward's apartment.
"I don't intend to investigate our employees but whether we can be assured of the public's right to confidentiality when they call on the city's emergency personnel," Buffa said.
Ziemer has said he always keeps a loaded camera at the bar to photograph celebrities that drop by. The late Billy Martin and fighter Ken Norton have been photographed at the bar.
The City Council has refused to renew Ziemer's conditional use permit to operate the bar, a move which eventually could shut the tavern down. The council has heard testimony from surrounding businesses and neighbors and received police and fire department reports connecting the bar's patrons to several complaints, including being drunk in public, drug possession and disorderly conduct.
In all, 24 police reports were submitted to the council about complaints stemming from the bar. However, Ziemer disputes most of the reports.
"My lawyer forced them to go back and look at how many were attributable to us and they found there were nine in a period of four months," Ziemer said. "That's unheard of."
Ziemer has appealed the council's decision and is awaiting an Oct. 3 hearing scheduled in Orange County Superior Court.
"We want a hearing before the judge, and we're hoping that he's going to give us a (fair) hearing," Ziemer said.
Ward says she is happy the city will look into the circumstances surrounding the pictures. She refuses to say what she was being treated for when the paramedics came.
"I feel like at this point I'm living in a fish bowl. If I go out of my apartment, I'm called names. . . . I feel these are tactics of intimidation," Ward said.
"I'm just a private citizen voicing complaints that I have the right to voice."