Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thorntown sued for Civil Rights Violations

Stuart Showalter v Thorntown et al, 1:08-MC-1283

In what amounts to round five of the ongoing battle between a town resident seeking access to public records and town officials who refuse to disclose them, the resident filed a complaint against those officials in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The complaint, alleging that officials conspired to violate his civil rights, was filed with the Court on 24 September 2008, exactly two years after the town sued him for publicly disagreeing with a policy.

The complaint alleges five causes of action including "Violation of Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment" and "Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights". Showalter alleges in part:
"Upon information and belief, Defendants met with each other to plan a way in which they could work in concert to deprive Mr. Showalter of his constitutional rights by initiating legal proceedings against him without cause while allowing other residents to engage in similar activities who express viewpoints not opposed by the Defendants."

Although the town argued that Showalter's signs were a danger to the public because they could be seen from drivers on a state highway no lawsuit has been filed by the town against others with signs. Showalter has particularly complained about six locations including Stookey's restaurant. There 31 signs are visible from the roadway, some with printing as small as you are reading now.

The complaint cites as some of its factual basis;
"On 06 August 2006 Defendants Mike Leffler and Pat McPeak came upon Plaintiff’s property with a Thorntown Police Officer while he was working on a display and asked him what he was doing. They were then ordered off the property and went directly to Defendant Vaughn‘s house."
"On 07 August 2006 Mr. Showalter sent to the Town Council a No Trespassing Order 'against any and all elected officials, employees or agents of the Town of Thorntown barring them from entering upon the real property located at 725 West Main Street, Thorntown, IN without a written writ or order by a court of competent jurisdiction.' and copied such to the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office."
"At approximately 2300 [on 24-08-06] Defendant Officer Duane Lewellen, acting at the request of the Town and while in uniform, entered upon the property at 725 West Main Street and asked Mr. Showalter to remove the sign during the festival, which was occurring at that time, because the Council did not approve of the message although he stated that he personally didn‘t disagree with it."
"Officer Lewellen informed Mr. Showalter that he has a constitutional right to have the sign there and there was nothing against the law about it."

Showalter made an audio recording of the visit by Lewellen but never got a chance to play it since the suit was dropped. Mr Showalter has 120 days from the date of filing to serve the complaint on the defendants. Armed with the power of federal subpoena and enforcement authority Showalter will now be able to seek the records he has previously requested and have the assistance of U.S. Marshall's to obtain them if the town continues to refuse disclosure.

No comments: