Monday, July 07, 2014

Park District Board Members Placed Under Citizen's Arrest After Refusing To Allow Public Comment

This case arises out of the home county where I grew up in Illinois. Citizen watchdogs placed the entire membership of the Clark County Park District under citizen's arrest after they refused to allow time before adjourning for public comment as is required under Illinois' Open Meetings Law. Violation of the law is a Class C misdemeanor offense. Approximately 30 people showed up for the board meeting, but board members went into executive session for nearly 2 1/2 hours. When they returned, the board adjourned the meeting without allowing time for public comment. John Kraft, a member of a local watchdog group then rose to his feet and announced that the entire board was being placed under citizens arrest for violating the law.

The board's attorney, Kate Yargus, instructed the board members to ignore Kraft and advised them that they were free to leave. That prompted a 911 call to the Clark Co. Sheriff's Department. Clark Co. Sheriff Jerry Parsley personally responded to the call, and to the surprise of the board members and their attorney, backed up Kraft and advised the board that he had followed the law correctly for affecting a citizen's arrest. "It's not that they should have. They're mandated to," Parsley said. "The people need to have their voice. It's not a dictatorship. It's a democracy." The board's attorney refused to comment to NBC's Channel 5 in Chicago, although the reporter was assured public comment would be allowed at the next board meeting. Kraft's group, Illinois Leaks, has filed a lawsuit against the board asking it to develop a formal Open Meetings Act policy and pay the group's costs.

One of the board members, Jeff Wallace, told NBC 5 that he thought the board's attorney, not the park district, should have to pay for the costs of the lawsuit. "You have 30 people, they just sat outside executive session for more than two hours, and you're not gonna allow them to talk? What a slap in the face," Wallace said. "There's no way in hell I'm gonna take taxpayer money and pay for this," Wallace said. "Personally, I think our attorney should pay for this. She is legal counsel, and she should know you have to allow public comment." Otherwise, Wallace said he thought the board members should split the costs between the seven board members. The Attorney General's Office told NBC 5 that its records showed that all of the board's members were up to date on the Open Meetings Act training provided by its office. Illinois Leaks reported that Yargus resigned as the board's attorney, effective at the end of June, citing personal reasons. The board members agreed to split the costs of the lawsuit filed against it by the citizens watchdog group.

Indiana's Open Meetings Law, unlike Illinois' law, does not have a blanket requirement that public agencies allow time for public comment during public meetings, unless time for public comment is expressly required by a statute requiring a public hearing on a particular item under consideration at a public meeting.

This incident reminded me of the old episode of the Andy Griffith Show when Gomer slapped Barney with a citizen's arrest for making a U-turn after he had just ticketed him for the same offense.


Anonymous said...

The Citizens Arrest ought to be used more around here. We ought to have a series of public awareness talks instructing citizens in the use of the citizens arrest under Indiana law so that it can be done correctly and legally. Last month a rowdy protest at the Albuquerque city council meeting led to an attempt to place Albuquerque’s Chief of Police under citizens arrest, but the Chief slipped out of the building before that attempt could be made. Although the New Mexico Attorney General opined that it might have constituted the felony of assault on a police officer, New Mexico has a history of citizens arrests of public servants and the procedure is widely understood by a sympathetic population. As more Indianapolis residents come to realize that the police department can no longer protect them, self-help is what we’re left with in this increasingly violent city. I carry a weapon, as do most landlords, because we are often victimized while working alone cleaning or repairing empty properties between tenants, or handling evictions, showing properties or collecting rent. And even though I’m a vocal supporter of the police, there’s not always one around when you need them. And we frequently have citizens denied their right to speak at government meetings, city code enforcers trespassing on private property, and drunk drivers in every walk of life. Sadly, the drunk drivers now include school bus drivers and police officers. There is heavy use of volunteer firemen in this State. Perhaps we ought to take a page from the olden days and start deputizing our citizenry. If Mayor Ballard and Chief Hite can’t protect us, perhaps Indianapolis needs vigilantes until we find a Mayor and Chief who can regain control. The final tally was announced by Drudge. Chicago had 60 shootings over the fourth of July weekend. Sixty. The writing is on the wall Indianapolis.

Anonymous said...

Update: Drudge now reports 14 killed, 82 shot in Chicagoland 4th of July weekend.

Anonymous said...

Detroit is now shutting off the water to residential customers. Half of Detroit’s water customers are behind on their water bills. But never before in history has a major city shut off the water to a substantial portion of its residents because of non-payment, turning Detroit back into a pioneer town and prompting the United Nations to debate U.N. involvement as human rights are allegedly violated by the intentional shutoffs. I wonder if Cary Lykins plans to begin mass shut-offs of water as the numbers of Indianapolis residents who cannot pay quadrupled water/sewer bills rises. And if he does, can Citizens Arrests be made of Citizens executives and board members for violations of human rights as defined by the United Nations? I have been checking all my rental property bills, and doing a small informal survey of neighbors and friends and other landlords, and I can tell you that the numbers being put out by Citizens for average water and sewer bills are fraudulently underestimated, and now sewer bills are running higher than water bills. I have one property for sale, empty for months, and using no water or sewer. I got an eye popping bill. Detroit residents are having huge spikes in their bills for no apparent reason, and understaffed offices are unable to explain huge increases leading to arrears, and now shut-offs, as Detroit without water becomes a third world city.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:00: Detroit has been a Third World City for years. Corruption, crime, violence, tax and spend. It is what happens when Democrats are in power....destruction.

Detroit reflects Democrats moral bankruptcy.

One author even stated that Indianapolis is becoming South Detroit.

Pete Boggs said...

Constitutionally untethered public entities, act not in the public interest but for preservation of an insular, false, fee focused fascism; fee vs. free market. "Customers" or citizens, are an inconvenient but harvestable commodity; demands upon whom increase in inverse but direct proportion to their declining numbers; a predictable trend of exodus from misery.

Anonymous said...