ELYRIA — The city is a little red — as in angry — over the Ely Square fountain turning blue the night before the annual Kerstetter 5K and Family Walk, a race held in honor of slain Elyria police Sgt. James Kerstetter.
PHOTO COURTESY OF KERSTETTER 5K The fountain in Ely Square spouts colored water July 9.
On the night before more than 1,000 participants stepped off on Kerstetter Way to pay homage to the fallen officer, an anonymous person used an unknown dye to color the water in the fountain with a bluish hue.
By daybreak, pictures of the blue water sprouting fountain were all over social media and a city employee was caught in the crosshairs of a formal investigation.
Law Director Scott Serazin identified the employee as city Prosecutor Matt Mishak.
“On Friday, Matt floated the idea to dye the fountain and took the idea to (Parks and Recreation Director) Lisa Bowman,” Serazin said.
Bowman did not grant such permission.
“It’s my understanding the fountain heads are really old and there wasn’t enough time between 3:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday morning to look into what kind of dye was to be used and to see what effect it would have on the fountain. We know it leaks and it could have leaked blue dye all over the square.”
In the meantime, Serazin said, Mishak was talking to people about the idea. “Then, come Saturday, everyone can see the fountain is blue and people are on social media thanking Matt and congratulating him.”
Serazin said Mishak immediately tried to squash any idea that he did the deed through a text message to Bowman. Bowman on Tuesday referred all questions to Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka.
Mishak declined to comment.
Serazin said he only learned of the request to change the fountain water after the fact. As such, he told Mishak, his staffer, to prepare a report of exactly what was said, who he said it to, where he was at and what he was doing between the time he approached Bowman and when it was discovered that the fountain flowed blue.
“No one is against this. The only thing I can say is had this idea been presented earlier, the city could have done a little investigation to ensure the fountain was not ruined,” he said. “The way it did happen was just not ideal. The fountain is on its last leg.”
Serazin said absent the fountain-dying culprit confessing, he doubts anyone will ever know how the fountain was dyed.
As far as Mishak is concerned, Serazin said this situation likely will not rise to the level of discipline.
“I need to have a report because it is a member of my staff,” he said. “And it’s not like the idea was exclusive to him. It was bounced around for weeks. He was just the first person to approach the parks director. I still have to talk to some people, but I don’t think it will change anything.”
Serazin said no one should think there is any kind of prohibition in the future on turning the fountain blue to honor law enforcement.
“The race was a wonderful event as it is every year and a great way to remember a member of our community,” he said. “There was no intent by anyone to affect that event in any way. Just with this particular fountain being old it’s just a matter of trying to preserve city assets.”