Freeport mayor accused of conspiring with police
• Political sign allegedly sparks dispute between neighbors
By Leslie Brefeld
Freeport, Ill., residents Douglas and Rhonda Artman filed a federal complaint May 23 against Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp along with Freeport Deputy Chief of Police Jeff Davis and the mayor’s sister, Mary Leverington, for alleged civil rights violations under state law and the Constitution.
The Artmans allege the defendants conspired to use the Freeport Police Department to harass and deprive the Artmans of the use and enjoyment of their home.
Mayor Gaulrapp and Deputy Chief Davis declined to comment. The Artmans could not be reached for comment. Mary Leverington did not return a call for comment.
Five counts are filed against Gaulrapp, Davis and Leverington.
Count 1 — 1893 Civil Conspiracy First Amendment, Count 2 — George Gaulrapp/April 30, Count 3 — Deprivation of Fifth Amendment Constitutional Right to be Free from Unlawful Taking without Just Compensation, Count 4 — Intentional/Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, and Count 5 — Tortious Interference with Business Relations.
The dispute allegedly began after the mayor’s sister called the police to her neighbor’s house to advise them to take down a political sign that promoted the mayor’s opponent in the upcoming congressional race. Gaulrapp ran for representative of the 17th Congressional District, yet was defeated in the Democratic primary March 20.
The Artmans claim the police came to their home more than 50 times since the initial incident, allegedly in response to complaints made by Leverington.
The Freeport Police provided six police reports when asked for all reports from incidents where the police were called to the Artmans’ home by Leverington.
In an e-mail, Davis, who is also the Freedom of Information officer for the Freeport Police Department, wrote that these were “all the calls that directly involve the two individual families. Some of these calls did actually generate an offense report; however, in those cases, no arrests were made, and the cases have been closed. We have responded to both locations on more than just these occasions; however, those calls did not involve the two families.”
According to the claim: “The Artmans were told that Mary Leverington was the Mayor’s sister and they had orders to respond to every complaint made by her. … This harassment by the Freeport Police was a direct result of Mary Leverington’s complaints and was done at the direction of Mayor George Gaulrapp.”
It continues, “Mary Leverington constantly reminded the Artmans that ‘her brother is the mayor.’”
As a result of alleged complaints made by Leverington, the suit claims the police came to the Artmans’ house for a variety of reasons. The suit said, “the police told the Artmans to shut off their lights after a certain time.” They also said the police told them “their son could not ride his bicycle up or down his own driveway,” and “that their son could not play basketball on his own driveway.” They claim on another occasion the police came to their house and told them “they could not talk outside at 2 p.m.”
The suit also states that Douglas Artman had to leave work many times because he was informed police were either at or coming to his home.
The suit said, “The plaintiffs were thereafter forced to leave their house to escape the harassment, intimidation and actions of the defendants.”
When they went to sell their house, the Artmans allege the mayor again interfered.
The claim says Mayor Gaulrapp showed up at the auction of their house. According to the suit, he “identified himself as the Mayor of Freeport and spoke to people at the auction, intimidating them and interfering with the auction.”
The Artmans have since leased their home and moved out of Freeport.
They allege the harassment has not stopped since they moved out.
“Subsequent to leasing the property to tenants, the defendants have continued to have police come to the Artmans’ home to intimidate, harass, and interfere with their tenants’ occupancy and enjoyment,” the claim cited.
The Artmans are asking for compensatory damages and punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.
From the June 6-12, 2012, issue
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