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  • Civic News & Info
    SCOTT COUNTY, IOWA IS AWARDED HIGHEST HONOR IN GOVERNMENTAL BUDGETING PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Civic News & Info
    Written by Renee Luze-Johnson   
    Wednesday, 17 December 2014 09:50

    Larry Minard, Chairman of the Scott County Board of Supervisors announced today that Scott County has received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA) for Scott County’s current FY15 Budget.

    Scott County is one of only two Iowa counties (Scott and Linn County) to hold the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award. The County has received this award for the last twenty consecutive years. Only 13 of the 1,488 governmental units in the State of Iowa currently hold this honor.

    Larry Minard stated that this award is the highest form of recognition in governmental budgeting. Its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by the elected officials and management of Scott County and reflects their commitment to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.

    In order to receive the award, Scott County had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well an entity’s budget serves as 1) A policy document 2) A financial plan 3) An operations guide 4) Communications device. Budget documents must be rated “proficient” in all four categories to receive this award.

    For budgets, including fiscal period 2013, the most recent year data is available, over 1,425 governmental entities have received the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award nationwide. Award recipients have pioneered efforts to improve the quality of budgeting and provide excellent examples for other governments throughout North America.

    Larry Minard stated that the Board designates the achievement of this certification as a high priority. The Board expressed their appreciation to Dee F. Bruemmer, County Administrator and to the County’s designated budget analysts and support staff for their work and professional guidance in helping the county to obtain this governmental budgeting honor.

    The budget analysts and support staff members that developed the 2015 budget are listed below:
    Ed Rivers Health Director
    Pam Bennett Office Administrator, Sheriff’s Department
    Chris Berge ERP/ECM Budget Analyst
    Grace Cervantes Operations Manager, Recorder’s Office
    Lori Elam Community Services Director
    Tim Huey Planning & Development Director
    Craig Hufford Financial Management Supervisor, Treasurer’s Office
    David Farmer Budget Manager
    Roland Caldwell Operations Manager, Auditor’s Office
    Kathy Walsh Office Administrator, Attorney’s Office

     
    Ignorance Is No Excuse for Wrongdoing, Unless You’re a Cop PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Civic News & Info
    Written by John W. Whitehead   
    Wednesday, 17 December 2014 09:41

    “[I]f the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can ‘seize’ and ‘search’ him in their discretion, we enter a new regime.”—U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, dissenting in Terry v. Ohio (1968)

    With Orwellian irony, the U.S. Supreme Court chose December 15, National Bill of Rights Day to deliver its crushing blow to the Fourth Amendment. Although the courts have historically held that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law, in its 8-1 ruling in Heien v. State of North Carolina, the Supreme Court gave police in America one more ready excuse to routinely violate the laws of the land, this time under the guise of ignorance.

    The Heien case, which started with an improper traffic stop based on a police officer’s ignorance of the law and ended with an unlawful search, seizure and arrest, was supposed to ensure that ignorance of the law did not become a ready excuse for government officials to routinely violate the law.

    It failed to do so.

    In failing to enforce the Constitution, the Court gave police the go-ahead to justify a laundry list of misconduct, from police shootings of unarmed citizens to SWAT team raids, roadside strip searches, and the tasering of vulnerable individuals with paltry excuses such as “they looked suspicious” and “she wouldn’t obey our orders.”

    When police handcuffed, strip-searched and arrested a disabled man for no reason other than he sounded incoherent, it was chalked up as a mistake. Gordon Goines, a 37-year-old disabled man suffering from a Lou Gehrigs-type disease, was “diagnosed” by police and an unlicensed mental health screener as having “mental health issues,” apparently because of his slurred speech and unsteady gait, and subsequently handcuffed, strip searched, and locked up for five days in a mental health facility against his will and with no access to family and friends. This was done despite the fact that police had no probable cause to believe that Goines had committed any crime, was a danger to himself or others, nor did they have any other legitimate lawful reason to seize, arrest or detain him. When Goines was finally released, police made no attempt to rectify their “mistake.”

    “I didn’t know it was against the law” was the excuse police used to justify their repeated tasering of Malaika Brooks. Eight-months pregnant and on her way to drop her son off at school, Brooks was repeatedly tasered by Seattle police during a routine traffic stop simply because she refused to sign a speeding ticket. The cops who tasered the pregnant woman insisted they weren’t aware that repeated electro-shocks qualified as constitutionally excessive and unreasonable force. The Supreme Court gave the cops a “get out of jail” card.

    “I thought he was reaching for a gun.” That was the excuse given when a police officer repeatedly shot 70-year-old Bobby Canipe during a traffic stop. The cop saw the man reaching for his cane and, believing the cane to be a rifle and fearing for his life, opened fire.  Police excused the shooting as “unfortunate” but “appropriate.”

    “He was resisting arrest.” That was the rationale behind Eric Garner’s death. Garner, placed in a chokehold by police for allegedly resisting their attempts to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes, screamed “I can’t breathe” repeatedly, until he breathed his last breath. A grand jury ruled there was no “reasonable cause” to charge the arresting officer with Garner’s death.

    And then you have the Heien case, which, while far less traumatic than Eric Garner’s chokehold death, was no less egregious in its defiance of the rule of law.

    In April 2009, a police officer stopped Nicholas Heien’s car, allegedly over a faulty brake light, and during the course of the stop and subsequent search, found a sandwich bag’s worth of cocaine. In North Carolina, where the traffic stop took place, it’s not actually illegal to have only one working brake light. However, Heien—the owner of the vehicle—didn’t know that and allowed the search, which turned up drugs, and resulted in Heien’s arrest. When the legitimacy of the traffic stop was challenged in court, the arresting officer claimed ignorance and the courts deemed it a “reasonable mistake.”

    I’m not sure which is worse: law enforcement officials who know nothing about the laws they have sworn to uphold, support and defend, or a constitutionally illiterate citizenry so clueless about their rights that they don’t even know when those rights are being violated.

    This much I do know, however: going forward, it will be that much easier for police officers to write off misconduct as a “reasonable” mistake.

    Understanding this, Justice Sotomayor, the Court’s lone dissenter, warned that the court’s ruling “means further eroding the Fourth Amendment’s protection of civil liberties in a context where that protection has already been worn down.” Sotomayor continues:

    Giving officers license to effect seizures so long as they can attach to their reasonable view of the facts some reasonable legal interpretation (or misinterpretation) that suggests a law has been violated significantly expands this authority. One wonders how a citizen seeking to be law-abiding and to structure his or her behavior to avoid these invasive, frightening, and humiliating encounters could do so.

    There’s no need to wonder, because there is no way to avoid these invasive, frightening, and humiliating encounters, not as long as the courts continue to excuse ignorance and sanction abuses on the part of the police.

    Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching innocent motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.

    Indeed, as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the police and other government agents have, with the general blessing of the courts, already been given the authority to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance.

    Just consider the Court’s pro-police state rulings in recent years:

    In Plumhoff v. Rickard, the Court declared that police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. In Navarette v. California, the Court declared that police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips.  This ruling came on the heels of a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Westhoven that driving too carefully, with a rigid posture, taking a scenic route, and having acne are sufficient reasons for a police officer to suspect you of doing something illegal, detain you, search your car, and arrest you—even if you’ve done nothing illegal to warrant the stop in the first place.

    In Maryland v. King, a divided Court determined police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Arizona v. United States allows police to stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike. And in an effort to make life easier for “overworked” jail officials, the Court ruled in Florence v. Burlington that police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense.”

    In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King, the Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, a majority of the high court agreed that it’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name.

    And now we’ve got Heien v. North Carolina, which gives the police a green light to keep doing more of the same without fear of recrimination. Clearly, the present justices of the Supreme Court have forgotten that the Constitution, as Justice Douglas long ago recognized, “is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.”

    Given the turbulence of our age—with its police overreach, military training drills on American soil, domestic surveillance, profit-driven prisons, asset forfeiture schemes, wrongful convictions, and corporate corruption—it’s not difficult to predict that this latest Supreme Court ruling will open the door to even greater police abuses.

    We’ve got two choices: we can give up now and resign ourselves to a world in which police shootings, chokeholds, taserings, raids, thefts, and strip searches are written off as justifiable, reasonable or appropriate OR we can push back—nonviolently—against the police state and against all of the agencies, entities and individuals who march in lockstep with the police state.

    As for those still deluded enough to believe they’re living the American dream—where the government represents the people, where the people are equal in the eyes of the law, where the courts are arbiters of justice, where the police are keepers of the peace, and where the law is applied equally as a means of protecting the rights of the people—it’s time to wake up.

    We no longer have a representative government, a rule of law, or justice. Liberty has fallen to legalism. Freedom has fallen to fascism. Justice has become jaded, jaundiced and just plain unjust.

    The dream has turned into a nightmare.

     
    U.S. Supreme Court Rules 8-1 that Citizens Have No Protection Against Fourth Amendment Violations by Police Officers Ignorant of the Law PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Civic News & Info
    Written by John W. Whitehead   
    Monday, 15 December 2014 16:04

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a blow to the constitutional rights of citizens, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in Heien v. State of North Carolina that police officers are permitted to violate American citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights if the violation results from a “reasonable” mistake about the law on the part of police. Acting contrary to the venerable principle that “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” the Court ruled that evidence obtained by police during a traffic stop that was not legally justified can be used to prosecute the person if police were reasonably mistaken that the person had violated the law. The Rutherford Institute had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hold law enforcement officials accountable to knowing and abiding by the rule of law. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Court’s lone dissenter, warned that the court’s ruling “means further eroding the Fourth Amendment’s protection of civil liberties in a context where that protection has already been worn down.”

    The Rutherford Institute’s amicus brief in Heien v. North Carolina is available at www.rutherford.org.

    “By refusing to hold police accountable to knowing and abiding by the rule of law, the Supreme Court has given government officials a green light to routinely violate the law,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of the award-winning book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “This case may have started out with an improper traffic stop, but where it will end—given the turbulence of our age, with its police overreach, military training drills on American soil, domestic surveillance, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, wrongful convictions, and corporate corruption—is not hard to predict. This ruling is what I would call a one-way, nonrefundable ticket to the police state.”

    In April 2009, a Surry County (N.C.) law enforcement officer stopped a car traveling on Interstate 77, allegedly because of a brake light which at first failed to illuminate and then flickered on. The officer mistakenly believed that state law prohibited driving a car with one broken brake light. In fact, the state traffic law requires only one working brake light. Nevertheless, operating under a mistaken understanding of the law, during the course of the stop, the officer asked for permission to search the car. Nicholas Heien, the owner of the vehicle, granted his consent to a search. Upon the officer finding cocaine in the vehicle, he arrested and charged Heien with trafficking. Prior to his trial, Heien moved to suppress the evidence seized in light of the fact that the officer’s pretext for the stop was erroneous and therefore unlawful. Although the trial court denied the motion to suppress evidence, the state court of appeals determined that since the police officer had based his initial stop of the car on a mistaken understanding of the law, there was no valid reason for the stop in the first place. On appeal, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that even though the officer was wrong in concluding that the inoperable brake light was an offense, because the officer’s mistake was a “reasonable” one, the stop of the car did not violate the Fourth Amendment and the evidence resulting from the stop did not need to be suppressed. In weighing in on the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Rutherford Institute attorneys warn against allowing government agents to “benefit” from their mistakes of law, deliberate or otherwise, lest it become an incentive for abuse.

    Affiliate attorney Christopher F. Moriarty assisted The Rutherford Institute in advancing the arguments in the amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court.

     
    Loebsack, McKinley Propose Bill to Help Emergency First Responders PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Civic News & Info
    Written by Vonnie Hampel   
    Saturday, 13 December 2014 10:43

    Bipartisan Bill Will Help Rural Fire Departments Recruit and Retain Volunteers

    Washington, D.C. Yesterday, Congressmen Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and David B. McKinley (R-WV) introduced bipartisan legislation to help volunteer firefighters and other first responders who keep our communities safe. The bill creates a tax deduction for volunteer first responders and will help Volunteer Fire Departments and other public safety organizations recruit and retain volunteers.

    “I’d like to thank Representatives McKinley and Loebsack for introducing this important legislation,” said Chief Philip C. Stittleburg, Chairman of the National Volunteer Fire Council. “The services donated by volunteer emergency response personnel are valued at more than $140 billion annually and the average responder donates services worth more than $18,000 each year. At the same time, local agencies are increasingly struggling to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters and EMTs. This common sense bill would help bolster staffing in volunteer public safety agencies by allowing responders to claim a portion of the value of the services they donate each year as a charitable donation.”

    “Our volunteer firefighters stand ready to serve us the moment disaster strikes. They donate their time and energy to keep us safe, and we can do more to support their critical role in our communities,” said Loebsack. “Over 90% of Iowa’s firefighters are volunteers, and this tax credit would provide an important recruitment tool for Fire Departments to maintain the level of staffing that they need to do their jobs. I am pleased to work on a bipartisan basis with Rep. McKinley to advance this important legislation.”   

       

    “Small towns across West Virginia and the country rely on volunteers to respond to fires, accidents, and other emergencies,” said McKinley. “Yet these same men and women are often forced to raise money to simply have adequate equipment and training. We can do more to help them.”

    “We’ve had a number of meetings with Volunteer Fire Departments across West Virginia, and the number one issue they have is recruiting volunteers and keeping them,” said McKinley. “This solution will help fix that problem and demonstrates the respect earned by volunteer emergency personnel.”

    The bill provides a tax deduction for hours of service each year volunteered for fire-fighting and prevention services, emergency medical services, ambulance services, civil air patrol, and emergency rescue services.

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    Lt. Governor Sheila Simon statement on passing of Judy Baar Topinka PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Civic News & Info
    Written by Annie Thompson   
    Wednesday, 10 December 2014 14:45

    CARBONDALE – Dec. 10, 2014. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today issued the following statement regarding the passing of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

    “I am deeply saddened to hear of Judy Baar Topinka’s passing. People throughout Illinois will remember her for her many years of dedication to public service just as much as they will remember her for her larger than life personality. She truly loved the people of this state.

    “My thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends and staff as we mourn the loss of a legend in Illinois government.”

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