City to rewrite West Side Market policy after FOX 8 I-Team asks questions

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CLEVELAND, Ohio-- Cleveland City Hall says it will rewrite a policy putting new restrictions on vendors at the historic West Side Market after the FOX 8 I-Team started investigating.

Many vendors have had stands at the market for decades, but they never saw anything like what they found in new lease agreements. They found, for the first time, a “Code of Conduct," and it came with what amounts to a threat. It told the vendors if they talk to reporters without permission from the market manager, they could face “corrective action” that could include legal action.

Vince Bertonaschi said, "I did two years in the Army to fight for our freedoms. That's a slap in the face to anybody who served. It had a thing in there, sign here, and then sign here."

Bertonaschi and others saw it as an effort to shut them up since they’ve raised concerns about their building, business hours, and more. So the I-Team went to Cleveland City Hall. What about free speech? We said to the mayor’s spokesman, Dan Williams, telling him, "It basically says, if you talk to the media, you're gonna be punished." Williams responded, "I know that's about how it reads."

The market has been successful for generations. It’s become a tradition and a tourist attraction. Didn’t take long for the mayor’s office to tell the I-Team the new policy will change. Williams said, "I'm gonna look through it along with Law (the Law Department). Make sure that we've got the correct wording. But it'll be more of a positive statement. Everyone has a right to talk to the media."

Vendors believe the city cares too much about helping out the trendy bars and restaurants in the Ohio City neighborhood. Not doing enough to help out this historic market. In fact, vendors say crowds from the neighborhood hotspots now often clog up the parking lot taking away spaces from regular Market customers.

The city says it would still prefer to have the market manager or City Hall do the talking publicly about market operations.

But now that the city will back off the threat to keep vendors quiet, you might hear more from them.

Diane Dever said, "We want things fixed in this building. We need to have communication. We don't have anything."

Read more stories on the West Side Market.