The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

June 21, 2013

Critical neighbor, park officials feud over swans

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — When Buhl Farm park General Manager Patrick D. O’Mahony said Saturday that the two swans killed earlier in the day had been buried in the park, he wasn’t lying.

But what he didn’t say was that someone else, not anyone associated with the park, had buried them, and that the burial was not approved by park personnel, he said Thursday.

Nonsense, said Andrew K. Mudrinich, the attorney for Glenn W. Siminick, the man park personnel and Hermitage police say buried the elegant waterfowl.

“Glenn was asked by a park employee to bury the swans,” said Mudrinich, who did not name the employee.

The feud between Siminick, a longtime critic of how officials have managed the swans, and park officials has led to Siminick being charged with summary offenses of harassment and disorderly conduct for a May 1 fight at the park and with defiant trespass for being in the park Sunday, after he had been banned from entering it.

“We deny everything,” said Tedd R. Nesbit, Mudrinich’s law partner who will defend Siminick at a summary trial Wednesday on the disorderly conduct and harassment charges. “We will vigorously defend.”

Siminick, who was not aware of the defiant trespass charge before The Herald informed him of it, offered one comment before asking that Mudrinich be contacted: “They’re gonna catch hell,” said Siminick, 60, of 662 Seventh St., Sharpsville.

Over the winter, Siminick complained to The Herald that park personnel want “nothing to do” with the swans.

“The park needs to take responsibility for these things,” he said.

He predicted that the swans, whose wings were clipped to prevent flying, would get hit by cars if they were not managed more closely and were not allowed to waddle across Forker to get to the lake at the Avalon Country Club at Buhl Park golf course.

The swans primarily ate algae that grows at the edge of open bodies of water, Mudrinich said. The rocks at the edge of Lake Julia prevent algae growth, he said, so the swans go to the country club pond to feed.

The adults swans were killed at 5:45 a.m. Saturday when they were hit on Forker by a red pickup that did not stop, Hermitage police said.

Police Chief Brian Blair said police have not received any information that could help them determine the driver of the red pickup.

Blair added that, even if the driver is identified, he or she would not be charged with a crime unless police could prove malice.

Shortly after the swans were hit, Avalon employees took the remains to a Buhl Park maintenance building, O’Mahony said.

Siminick followed the employees and snatched the bag that held the bodies, police said.

He buried the birds by the smaller of the two bodies of Lake Julia, and was seen by a park employee putting a pick into his car, park officials said. Siminick was not questioned, but the employee saw the area where ground had been dug.

“We assumed that’s where they were,” Bud Mehalko, the park’s director of security and safety, said of the swans.

The bodies were exhumed Monday and taken to Hillcrest-Flynn Pet Funeral Home and Crematory, Hermitage, for a complimentary cremation, park officials said.

The swans’ ashes reside in an urn at the park’s Buhl-Timblin Casino.

Siminick has not been charged for any actions the day of the swans’ death, but is now banned from the park for feeding wildlife and faces two summary cases filed by Hermitage police in response to other actions at the park.

Mudrinich said Siminick was never notified of the ban at the park and, once the park employee asked him to bury the swans, the ban was effectively lifted.

Blair said the fact that a letter about the ban had not been delivered by Saturday factored into the decision not to charge him for anything he did that day.

However, police had a discussion with him and he was informed that he is not to enter the park, Blair said.

On Sunday, Siminick was seen in a car with Mudrinich in the park, and police filed the defiant trespass charge.

Mudrinich said he and Siminick were taking a television reporter to see where the swans had been buried. Siminick never left the car.

“That’s what I call defiant trespass,” Mudrinich said sarcastically.

In the May 1 incident, Siminick was seen feeding ducks by Roy H. Hamor, 50, of 634 Seventh St., Sharpsville, who told him to quit it, Blair said. The park has a no-feeding policy for all wildlife, O’Mahony said.

Hamor and Siminick argued and a fight broke out, Blair said.

Park officials hope to replace the swans and are collecting money for the purchase through its wildlife fund, but have no timetable to buy new swans, O’Mahony said.

“The community was very much attached to the swans,” he said. “I think everybody is disappointed and sad at what has occurred.”

Donations can be sent to Buhl Park Wildlife Fund, 715 Hazen Road, Hermitage 16148.

Two cygnets that were with their parents when the adults were killed, but were not injured, have been donated to someone “who is experienced in raising the swans” and will not be returning to the park, O’Mahony said.