Two Damascus residents who were banned, albeit it briefly, from Damascus City Hall have each settled with the city for $4,500.
On Monday, Jan. 7, Judith Landis and John Fewkes agreed to drop their claims against the city, and the city promised that neither its City Manager Greg Baker, nor any city employee, will trespass anyone until Damascus has adopted an ordinance outlining such a process.
In late October, Landis and Fewkes were issued 6-month no-trespass orders banning them from city hall and surrounding property after comments they made at an earlier council meeting were interpreted as threats. During the meeting Landis chastised the council for disrespecting Mayor Steve Spinnett, accused the new City Manager Greg Baker of being snowed by the city councilors and ended her comment with a quote from Alice in Wonderland, saying Off, off, off with your heads.
Fewkes, during the same meeting, referred to four boxes that people can use to preserve their freedom: The soap box, on which I stand tonight, he said. The ballot box, which I will certainly exercise next month. The jury box, in which our fellow citizens make determinations. The cartridge box, which is the right of the citizenry to keep and bear arms against a tyrannical and oppressive government.
In closing he said, My desire is that the last two boxes would never be needed in this community.
Attorney Bruce McCain, who represented both residents, on Nov. 1, filed a tort claim against the city, calling the exclusion unconstitutional. He also pointed out that the city has no ordinance in place allowing a resident to be banned from City Hall. The city rescinded the no-trespass order.
The settlement echoes a similar one made three weeks ago that paid Baker $10,000 in exchange for him not suing the city for defamatory statements made by Mayor Steve Spinnett. Baker also negotiated a new contract with a generous severance agreement, which in essence assures Baker will be paid through 2014 even if residents vote in November to disincorporate as a city.