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Williams v. City of Carl Junction

April 20, 2006

CHARLES E. WILLIAMS, PLAINTIFF.
v.
CITY OF CARL JUNCTION, MO., JAMES WISDOM, JOHN HOFER, AND JOSEPH BARFIELD, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary A. Fenner, Judge United States District Court

ORDER

Presently before the Court are two Motions for Summary Judgment. The Defendant City of Carl Junction, Missouri ("City") filed the first Motion. (Doc. #56). The second Motion was filed by the remaining Defendants, James Wisdom, John Hofer and Joseph Barfield.*fn1 (Doc. # 58). The Court will rule on both of these Motions in the present Order due to the similarity of the facts and arguments presented therein. The Plaintiff, Charles E. Williams ("Williams"), opposes these Motions arguing that genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment. (Doc. #68). The Court, upon careful consideration of the facts and arguments presented by the parties, HEREBY GRANTS the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Facts

Williams identifies himself as a "vociferous critic of City policies and actions." (Doc. #68). He claims that he is "well known to City officials, frequently attending and speaking out at City Council meetings." Id. He characterizes himself as a "crass, often rude and profane, gadfly." Id. Williams admits that he "can be an obstreperous pest -- a 'pain in the neck' -- when he takes a position on issues." Id.

Williams filed this action asserting that in response to his strident opposition to City policies and actions, the City, its Mayor, its Police Chief, and its Administrator, have retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights by issuing over 26 separate citations for various violations of City ordinances. (Doc. #1, Doc. #68). The citations, beginning in July 2002, include business license violations, parking violations, solid waste violations, a peace disturbance, harassment by telephone, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle, nuisance violations, and a setback regulation violation. (Doc. #68, Ex. 1). Williams asserts that the issuance of these citations has "chilled" his desire to speak out in opposition to City policies and actions. (Doc. #1, Doc. #68).

Williams' four-count complaint against the City, its Mayor, its Police Chief and its Administrator asserts the following claims: Count I: 42 U.S.C. § 1983, First Amendment Retaliation against all Defendants; Count II: 42 U.S.C. § 1985, Conspiracy against the Mayor, the Police Chief and the Administrator; Count III: Malicious Prosecution against the Mayor, the Police Chief and the Administrator; Count IV: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against the Mayor, the Police Chief and the Administrator. (Doc. #1). The Mayor, Police Chief and Administrator moved for summary judgment on all claims. (Doc. #60). Williams did not respond to their arguments regarding Counts III or IV. (Doc. #68). Accordingly, the Court finds that Williams has conceded his Malicious Prosecution and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claims and these claims will not be further addressed in this Order.

A. Twelve Citations for Failure to Obtain a Business License: July -- November 2002

Williams was issued his first relevant citation on July 25, 2002 for violating the City's ordinance regarding business licenses. (Doc. #86, Ex. 1). The City's Code provides:

Every applicant for a license required by this Chapter who shall carry on any occupation, trade, pursuit, business or vocation included in this Chapter, in two (2) or more different places of business, shall secure a separate license for each place of business and shall also secure a separate license wherein they engage in more than one (1) occupation at such address and location. (Doc. #57, Ex. 5).

In 1999, Williams applied for and received a business license for automotive repair to be conducted at 104 East Allen under the business name, "The City Garage." (Doc. #57, ¶ 14).*fn2 This business license was renewable each year upon Williams' payment of the renewal fee to the City. Id. As a result of Williams' renewals, this license was valid from May 5, 2002 through May 5, 2003. (Doc. #57, ¶ 15).

In 2001, Williams applied for and received a business license for automotive repair to be conducted at 110 West Pennell Street under the business name, "The City Garage." (Doc. #57, ¶ 16). Williams did not renew this business license and the license expired in June 2002. Id.

On July 17, 2002, Williams applied for a business license for automotive sales to be conducted at 110 West Pennell Street under the business name, "CJ Auto Sales." (Doc. #57, ¶ 17). Maribeth Matney ("Matney"), the City Clerk, recalls that Williams told her that he intended to sell cars at the 110 West Pennell Street location and that he would also be doing auto repair at that location on the cars he was going to sell. (Matney's Dep. 19:2-16; 44:12-45:12). Matney told Williams that "the repairs of the cars that he was going to be selling would fall under the [auto sales] license." Id. Matney further told Williams that if he was going to be working on cars that were not going to be for sale at the 110 West Pennell Street location that he would need a separate license. Id. On July 17, 2002, Williams received a business license for automotive sales to be conducted at 110 West Pennell Street under the business name, "CJ Auto Sales." (Doc. #57, ¶ 20).

Despite Matney's advice, the City subsequently decided that Williams did not have a valid business license for automotive repair at the 110 West Pennell location for the time period commencing July 25, 2002 and ending November 22, 2002. (Doc. #57, ¶ 21). The City required Williams to obtain two separate licenses for the 110 West Pennell Street location because "automobiles" and "garage" are identified as separate and distinct business licenses in § 605.080 of the City Code. (Matney's Dep. 99:12-100:20). Williams disagreed with the determination that the City Code required him to obtain two separate licenses to sell cars and repair the cars he intended to sell at the 110 West Pennell Street location. (Doc. #57, ¶ 19).

Sometime after July 17, 2002, Matney communicated with the Police Chief on multiple occasions concerning Williams' failure to obtain a license to repair cars at the 110 West Pennell Street location. (Doc. #57, ¶ 22). From July 25, 2002 through November 22, 2002, Williams received 12 citations for failing to obtain a valid business license for automotive repair at the 110 West Pennell location. (Doc. #57, ¶ 23). These citations are summarized as follows:

July 25, 2002 Ticket No. 010-709350, Case No. 20-02-630 August 16, 2002 Ticket No. 020283641, Case No. 20-02-696 August 23, 2002 Ticket No. 020283642, Case No. 20-02-704 August 30, 2002 Ticket No. 020283643, Case No. 20-02-752 September 6, 2002 Ticket No. 020283644, Case No. 20-02-761 September 13, 2002 Ticket No. 020283645, Case No. 20-02-773 September 23, 2002 Ticket No. 020283646, Case No. 20-02-782 October 15, 2002 Ticket No. 020283647, Case No. 20-02-850 October 17, 2002 Ticket No. 020283648, Case No. 20-02-855 October 28, 2002 Ticket No. 020284214, Case No. 20-02-927 November 20, 2002 Ticket No. 020284215, Case No. 200-21-029 November 22, 2002 Ticket No. 020284216, Case No. 200-21-028 Each citation was issued by the Police Chief for a violation of City Ordinance § 605.050. Id. Williams disagrees with the City's determination that the Code required him to obtain two separate business licenses for the 110 West Pennell Street location to sell and repair cars. (Doc. #68, CSOF ¶¶ 24-25). However, Williams admits that every time the Police Chief cited him for violations of City Ordinance § 605.050, the Police Chief would personally drive by and observe whether Williams was operating a business repairing cars without the required business license to repair cars. (Doc. #57, ¶ 24). Williams further admits that every time the Police Chief cited Williams for violating City Ordinance § 605.050, the Police Chief would first check with or be notified by Matney that Williams did not have a valid license for automotive repair at the 110 West Pennell Street location. (Doc. #57, ¶ 25).

On September 17, 2002, in between the citations issued on September 13, 2002 and September 23, 2002, Williams appeared at a City Council meeting to address the Council regarding parking at 110 West Pennell. (Doc. #57, ¶ 93). On October 1, 2002, in between the citations issued on September 23, 2002 and October 15, 2002, in a discussion about the City's Rails for Trails initiative, Williams remarked that the City should get ready for a legal battle. Id.

When the Police Chief cited Williams for failing to have a required business license on August 16, 2002, Williams refused to sign the citation and yelled that the Police Chief was a "fucking asshole," "was like the rest of them," and "needed to learn what [Williams] could do." (Williams Dep. 271:9-13). The Police Chief informed Williams that he could issue Williams a citation for every day that Williams was operating a business without a license and reminded him that the Police Chief had not ticketed him every day. (Williams Dep. 271:4-8). On August 23, 2002, when the Police Chief issued Williams another citation for operating a business without a license, Williams made an obscene gesture, commonly referred to as "the bird," towards the Police Chief. (Hofer Aff. ¶ 15).

All 12 of the citations issued to Williams for violating § 605.050 were consolidated for trial on December 18, 2002 before the Circuit Court of Jasper County, Missouri, Municipal Division at Carl Junction. (Doc. #68, Ex. 4). The Court found that the City deviated from the Code's mandates on the issuance of business licenses by issuing licenses: (1) for different periods of time in contradiction to § 605.040; (2) which were not signed by the City Clerk in contradiction to § 605.303; and (3) which authorized "business within boundaries of said city" in contradiction to § 605.050. Id. The Court found that the licenses issued to Williams for CJ Auto Sales and The City Garage authorized said businesses to operate "within the boundaries of said city" and were not restrictive in respect to the location of the business. Id. The Court concluded, "[t]he City Garage and CJ Auto Sales conducted their business at the location of 110 West Pennell, Carl Junction, Missouri, with valid City business licenses in accordance with the guidelines as established by the City." Id. Therefore, the Court found Williams not guilty in all case numbers except Case No. 20-02-782 corresponding to the ordinance issued on September 23, 2002. Id. The Court found that on September 23, 2002, Williams engaged in a vocation or pursuit independent of The City Garage and CJ Auto Sales, in repairing the tail lights of Sherry Minsink's automobile at 110 West Pennell. Id.

B. Parking and Solid Waste Citations: July -- November 2002

During the five month period when Williams received 12 citations for failing to obtain a business license, Williams also received four parking citations and two solid waste citations. (Doc. #68, Ex. 1). The four parking citations occurred prior to Williams' September 17, 2002 and October 1, 2002 appearances before the City Council. (Doc. #68, Ex. 1, Doc. #57, ¶ 93). The two solid waste citations occurred after Williams' September 17, 2002 and October 1, 2002 appearances before the City Council. (Doc. #68, Ex. 1, Doc. #57, ¶ 93).

1. Parking Citations

On August 28, 2002, City Police Officer Scott Hollingshead ("Hollingshead") issued Williams two citations for parking two cars in excess of two hours in front of his business at 110 West Pennell. (Doc. #57, ¶ 31-32). Williams admits that he was aware that parking on the street outside of his business was limited to two hours. (Doc. #68, CSOF ¶ 34). Williams further admits that Police Officer Hollingshead observed him park two vehicles on the street in front of Williams' business and leave them there for more than two hours. (Doc. #68, CSOF ¶ 31). Williams admits that these citations were issued, but asserts that he was "exonerated" of the parking violations. (Doc. #68, PSOF ¶ 69). The Defendants respond that these violations were dismissed as the result of a plea bargain with the City prosecutor. (Doc. #75, Resp. PSOF ¶¶ 69-71).

On August 30, 2002, Williams was issued a citation for violating City Ordinance § 355.010 when he parked a Winnebago partially over the sidewalk in front of his business while he personally performed an automotive inspection on the vehicle. (Doc. #57, ¶¶ 37-38). City Ordinance § 355.010 provides: "Except when necessary to avoid a conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with the law or the directions of a Police Officer or official traffic control device, no person shall: 1.) Stop, stand or park a vehicle . . .

b.) on a sidewalk." (Doc. #57, ¶ 39). Williams admits that the Winnebago was partially parked across a sidewalk and a citation was issued, but asserts that he was "exonerated" of this parking violation. (Doc. #68, CSOF ¶¶ 37-38, PSOF ¶ 71). The Defendants respond that this violation was dismissed as the result of a plea bargain with the City Prosecutor. (Doc. #75, Resp. PSOF ¶¶ 69-71)

On September 10, 2002, City Police Officer Don Marshall ("Marshall") observed Williams park a vehicle on the street in front of his business at 110 West Pennell and leave it there for more than two hours. (Doc. #57, ¶ 34). Consequently, Officer Marshall issued Williams a citation for parking in excess of two hours. (Doc. #57, ¶ 34). Williams admits that a sign on the street outside of his business at 110 West Pennell indicated that parking in excess of two hours was prohibited and Williams further admits that Officer Marshall observed him leave a car parked in that space for longer than two hours. (Doc. #68, CSOF ¶¶ 33-35). Williams further asserts that he was "exonerated" of this parking violation. (Doc. #68, PSOF ¶ 70). The Defendants respond that this violation was dismissed as the result of a plea bargain with the City Prosecutor. (Doc. #75, Resp. PSOF ¶¶ 69-71).

2. Solid Waste Citations

Williams was issued two citations for solid waste disposal in violation of City Ordinance § 225.030. (Doc. #68, Ex. 1). City Ordinance § 225.030 provides:

The City shall provide for the collection of solid waste as follows: . . . 2. The City shall provide for the collection of all commercial and industrial solid waste . . . in conformity with the contract for solid waste collection existing between the City of Carl Junction and American Disposal Services of Missouri, Inc. . . . I. All solid waste generated from premises in the City shall be collected by the solid waste collector. (Doc. #57, ¶ 26). On October 24, 2002, the Police Chief drove by Williams' property located at 413 East Pennell Street and observed a dumpster on the property bearing a logo from a company other than American Disposal. (Doc. #57, ¶ 28). The Police Chief issued Williams a citation for violating City Ordinance § 225.030. Id. On October 28, 2002, the Police Chief drove by Williams' 413 East Pennell Street property a second time and noticed a different dumpster on the property bearing a logo from a company other than American Disposal. (Doc. #57, ¶ 29). The Police Chief cited Williams again for violating City Ordinance § 225.030. Id.

Williams admits that he did not have permission from the City to use any dumpsters other than those from American Disposal. (Doc. #68, CSOF ¶ 30). However, Williams asserts, the two solid waste disposal citations were ultimately dismissed. (Doc. #68, CSOF ¶¶ 28-29). The Defendants respond that these citations were dismissed as the result of a plea bargain with the City Prosecutor. (Doc. #75, ¶¶ 28-29).

C. Various Citations: 2003

1. February/March 2003: Citation for Peace Disturbance

On February 18, 2003, Williams made an appearance at a City Council meeting and participated in a discussion regarding City water towers and improvements. (Doc. #57, ¶ 93). The next day, Samuel Short ("Short"), a citizen of Carl Junction, and Douglas Miller, the City Prosecutor, signed a Complaint and Information against Williams. (Doc. #57, ¶ 65). The Complaint and Information asserted that Williams created a peace disturbance in violation of City Ordinance § 210.360. Id. City Ordinance § 210.360 provides:

A person commits the offense of peace disturbance if: 1. He/she unreasonably and knowingly disturbs or alarms another person or persons by . . . b. Offensive language addressed in a face-to-face manner to a specific individual and uttered under circumstances which are likely to produce an immediate violent response from a reasonable recipient. (Doc. #57, ¶ 68). Williams was directed to appear in Municipal Court on March 19, 2003 regarding this charge. (Doc. #57, ¶ 65).

Officer Hollingshead investigated the Complaint and was informed by Short that Williams gave him "the bird." (Doc. #57, ¶ 66). Short reported that when he asked Williams about giving him "the bird" Williams replied, "You owe me money, asshole." Id. Williams again gave Short "the bird" and told Short, "Fuck you." Id. Williams admits that Short's version of the events is accurate. (Doc. #57, ¶ 67).

On March 25, 2003, Williams appeared at a City Council meeting and the public forum concluded with a discussion regarding payment of Williams' attorney's fees. (Doc. #57, ΒΆ 93). This marks Williams' final appearance before the City Council. Id. Williams testified on May 24, 2005 that he had avoided ...


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