Barring Democracy in Wilkes-Barre

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You may have a right to change your government . . . but that doesn’t mean government won’t fight back.

In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, there was disagreement over a firehouse, whether it should be decommissioned, or not. The mayor wanted it gone; citizens wanted it kept. So citizens got active, petitioning to change the town’s home rule charter to allow voters to decide.

The city could have simply gone along with the petition, allowing a vote. That would have been the republican, democratic, and even decent thing. But instead, Mayor Tom Leighton set the town’s attorneys on the petitioners. They even sued the petitioners for $11,056 in attorney fees, for the city’s fight against their petition.

Now, the mayor had an almost-plausible excuse. It was about the petitioning, and charges of fraud. Those charges amounted to several folks who signed the petition who later said they’d been misled.

To the petitioners, the issue of attorneys fees seemed like nothing other than an attempt to squelch their rights . . . and to discourage other uppity citizens.

So they fought back, and, in mid-November, a federal jury ruled against the mayor and the town, and awarded activist Denise Carey $67,000 in her civil rights suit.

Carey’s lawyers had put the case very plainly, saying that “Mayor Leighton may be able to take away a fire station, but don’t let him take away our constitutional rights.”

The jury didn’t.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Dec
    10
    8:36
    PM
    Jerrold Radway

    The courts should be pushed to make the mayor pay the settlement and the attorney fees our of his own pocket. He was nor representing the citizens of his town, but his own personal ego. If politicians were forced to pay for violation of citizens civil right personally, we have much conciliatory admin.

  2. Dec
    11
    4:43
    PM
    John Ballouz

    It may be time for more direct action, as the “pols” have absolutely no regard for what “…we the people…” demand.

  3. Dec
    15
    5:48
    PM
    Terry DePew

    Torches & pitchforks.

  4. Feb
    16
    8:07
    AM
    Silicondoc

    Since when may a city government sick the city attourneys, who supposedly represent the people, on the people ?
    Worse yet, the Mayor, who supposedly represents the people, sets himself against them.
    We had an issue like this here a few years back.
    An activist group had a petition assembled for a non-binding resolution (no real legal consequences, just a statement of the will of the citizens) concerning a certain very expensive library the city officials wanted to build, replacing the state’s oldest functioning public Cargnegie library.
    The city lawyers and officials tried to trounce the petition claiming it had some sort of miniscule legal error in it’s draw up – even though the city lawyers were consulted, and initially okay’ed that draw up.
    A judge from a larger neighboring city (I’ll still remember his name), slapped down the city officials and corrput mayor and lawyers, stating simply the Constitutional right to petition for a redress of grievances.
    I was quite astounded by the whole deal, since the petition merely allowed for the people “expressing” their opinion on the coming ballot, and for or against, the city officials could go ahead and build anyway.
    It showed me just how screwed up and arrogant and criminal the city “leadership” really was, as reasonable conduct was nowhere to be found.
    Instead, a backstabbing, nitpicking, after the fact, traitorous, scurrulous, chicanery was at the center of it all.
    Later, a different activist aquaintance held the official city criminals feet to the fire for lying about, covering up, and apparently illegally transferring 1 million in funds from the Water & Sewer Dept., to pay for some of the library build.
    Currently, years later, just today I found out, the mayor got stung in court for moving the old library statues to the park, since he and the city don’t hold title to the Carnegie library, the library board does.
    The corruption , in other words, continues, law after law being broken, the arrogance striding onward, the criminals still in power.
    I knew we had a problem when on the local cable channel years ago, I watched the former Mayor in the city council meeting stand up and state the simple law the council and Mayor were just set about to openly break, calmly explaining to them that they couldn’t do that, since this and that principle (of law) prevented them, and the proper procedure (that’s protects the citiznes rights) needs to be followed.
    It was a simple thing, like paying for your items before leaving the store…
    I realized then the kooks we had elected didn’t have clue one, or if they did, they could care less what the law was, or what it means for a representative constitional replublic.

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