Kudos to the Sentinel for being first to press with the story on the 2nd lawsuit the city has filed against Robin Hooders. In it, the city attorney finally admits it’s about the revenue, but adds a lie to the mix:
Any significant loss of revenue has more to do with officers writing fewer tickets than in the past because they’ve been distracted by the alleged harassing behavior, he said.
It’s either a lie or city attorney Thom Mullins doesn’t understand how Robin Hooding works. The Robin Hooder should be positioned in front of the parking enforcer, filling meters before the enforcer can reach them. That is why they are writing fewer tickets, it’s not because they are distracted! Just admit it, Thom – you guys are pissed that you have missed out on at least $25,000 in revenue this year because Robin Hooders have saved well over 5,000 motorists from being victimized by your agents!
The city of Keene has filed another lawsuit against a group it says has harassed Keene parking enforcement officers, resulting in expenses the city hopes to recoup.
City officials filed the suit against six people associated with “Robin Hood of Keene” in Cheshire County Superior Court earlier this week.
Officials are asking that the city be reimbursed for, among other costs, attorneys’ fees and money used to conduct a job search after an employee quit because of the alleged harassment. The city has also requested a jury trial.
City officials first filed a complaint in May against the Robin Hooders, who follow parking enforcement officers and fill expired parking meters before officers can get there to try to prevent them from issuing parking tickets.
Officials allege that the six have harassed the officers in the process, creating a hostile work environment. The city has asked the court to establish a 30-foot safety zone between the officers and the Robin Hooders.
The complaint names Kate Ager, James Cleaveland, Graham Colson, Garret Ean, Peter Eyre and Ian Freeman. All are affiliated with a loosely knit group sometimes referred to as “Free Keene,” the same name as a blog produced by members who often protest so-called “victimless crimes,” such as drug possession, open container laws, seat belt and helmet laws, and parking violations.
A bench trial began last month, and is scheduled to continue Monday.
In the suit filed this week, the city says it has a right to protect its contractual relationship with its employees, and is seeking reimbursement for the parking officers’ “inability to properly perform their employment duties,” as well as the “loss of an employee, a modified schedule for another employee because of the defendants’ behavior, hiring costs to replace the lost employee, monetary and administrative expenses with regard to counseling and other human resources issues.”
The suit also argues that the city could suffer further damage if other parking enforcement officers quit or require special accommodations due to the defendants’ alleged behavior, according to court documents.
City Attorney Thomas P. Mullins said officials filed the new complaint because the city has now incurred monetary damages, which was not the case when the original court action was filed in May.
“We were trying to keep damages from happening (in May),” he said, adding that asking the judge to determine potential damages would have been speculative then. “They’re no longer speculative; they’re real.”
Mullins would not say how much money the city is asking for, or what modifications have been made to one of the parking enforcement officer’s schedules.
He did note that while city officials previously said the original complaint was not about money, “it’s starting to become about the money,” including a loss in revenue from parking tickets.
“It never was, it isn’t, and never will be about (Robin Hooders) filling meters,” he said. Any significant loss of revenue has more to do with officers writing fewer tickets than in the past because they’ve been distracted by the alleged harassing behavior, he said.
The attorney representing five of the six defendants (Eyre is representing himself) filed a motion to dismiss the original complaint earlier this month.
“I think the underlying legal claim is baseless, and I’m asking the judge to make a decision as soon as possible,” said Jon Meyer, a Manchester-based free speech attorney who is representing the Robin Hooders at no charge.
Meyer said he’s not sure whether Judge John C. Kissinger Jr. will rule on his motion to dismiss before or after the hearings that start Monday. If the court dismisses the original complaint, he would expect it to also toss the latest suit, he said.
The case gained national attention due to its First Amendment issues, something Kissinger previously expressed wariness about tackling.
“It comes down to, in my mind, that the city is trying to basically suppress free expression of First Amendment speech,” Meyer said. “I have not seen any scenario, nationally, in any case, where this type of claim has been used in the context of a demonstration.
“The issue here is not whether the protesters are right or wrong, or whether they agree or don’t agree, but their right to protest,” he said.
Robin Hooders have said previously that their behavior is not harassing, and that their goal is to prevent motorists from receiving tickets while also protesting the city’s pay-to-park policy.
The city’s original suit claims Robin Hooders have verbally harassed officers, encouraged them to find new jobs, followed them closely in a distracting manner, and created safety concerns for drivers and the officers.
The hearing Monday is set for 9 a.m. in Cheshire County Superior Court.