Archive for May, 2012

Government Seeks to Jail Facebook Critic….Happening in United States…..Actually Trumbull County!

By Attorney David Engler

A critic uses Facebook and Social Media to challenge government rule. The critic gains followers online. The government seeks to jail the critic.

 

FOUNDING FATHERS APPALLED !!!

This sounds like a rogue Mid-East nation or third world African state.

It is not.

This is happening in Trumbull County, Ohio.

A small businessman, Berry Meadows, who has run a septic installation company for many years had an argument with The Trumbull County Health Department.

TCHD is in charge of approving septic systems and responsible for approving installers.  The nature of the dispute is really not important. It has been the reaction of the government to quash any dissent that is down-right scary.

Mr. Meadows runs a company called Digging Dirt, LLC.  He is married to a very bright woman, Deanna, who assists in running their business.  They have three beyond adorable children and believe fiercely in the Word of God. What they thought was wrong, was a decision made by TCHD in conjunction with the State of Ohio EPA, or maybe on its own, to deny a septic system that Digging Dirt believed would produce a clean effluent and cost homeowners $3000 less per installation.  The Meadows believed the County had either directly or indirectly created a monopoly for one brand of septic system in the County and had cost the taxpayers of Trumbull millions of dollars.

So they took their dispute to the social media. They create a group site on Facebook called Trumbull County Septic News and it immediately gets followers. The Meadows do some digging of their own into ‘how things work’ and discover some real dirt!

They uncover what they believe to be a pattern of favors for friends of TCHD.
They fight to get public records. They sue TCHD for failure to provide the records. 
They ask for records to either prove or disapprove whether the Health Commissioner actually works the hours he is contracted to provide.
It’s a sweetheart job the health Commissioner holds and he refuses to release records that would show when he shows up to work.  He claims that such records pose a security risk.  Mind you that we are talking about a local health department and not the NSA.

The Trumbull County Septic News starts to take off.  The Meadows post the rants of the Health Commissioner, Dr. Enyeart on the website.  They post video of the entire meetings.

Kaboom. 

The Meadows ask for records that show the possibility that the local Sheriff got favorable treatment for a property with a non-compliant septic system. The property is owned by the Sheriff’s son and maybe there is nothing wrong, except Mr. Meadows asked for the records. 
He then asks for the records of the Board’s attorney who gets $3250 per month for a part-time gig.  The records show that the Board’s attorney didn’t have to pay up front for an inspection like most citizens. Once again maybe everything is kosher with the process, but it looks messy.

What happens next is straight from China’s or Syria’s play book of how to deal with a critic:

First call him crazy to anyone that will listen.

Next do not allow him or her to speak at the public meetings.
The local board hires the Sheriff’s office to post an armed guard and stand over seemingly anyone who has the temerity to make a public record request. 
Dr. Enyeart himself asks for the guard to be present at the Health Department.
And then when the subtle forms of intimidation do not work…..seek to imprison your critic.

 Amazingly the very top of the Sheriff’s chain of command gets involved with the case and seeks out a customer of Digging Dirt from 2007 that had a dispute.  The customer does not seek criminal charges but rightfully was claiming that they deserved a refund. They take their contract dispute to civil court and name Wells Fargo as a Defendant since they believe Wells Fargo released money in 2008 that should not have been released.  But the Sheriff’s office takes a contract case that is nearly 5 years old and charges Berry Meadows with felony Theft by Deception! 

The Health Department posts the newspaper article of my client’s arrest on its government website!

The high ranking Sheriff’s official then finds another customer of Digging Dirt and uses that case to file a criminal complaint for Theft by Deception. 

In Ohio and every other jurisdiction Theft by Deception is used when someone promises to do something that they have no intention of ever doing or delivering something that they cannot deliver in order to get someone’s money.  Digging Dirt had been doing hundreds of quality installs. This was not the scam of the door to door siding salesman taking a deposit then skipping town.

It is not coincidental that after months of posting damaging information about the Health Department and possibly the Sheriff’s office that a criminal charge is initiated, investigated and brought by the Sheriff’s office on civil matters that were very old.

What is amazing is that the local government officials could not contain themselves from understanding that their actions are nothing short of strong armed goons going out of their way to quiet opposition. 

This government and others are going to have to come to grips that they need to treat their social media critics with the same deference they treat the traditional news media.  I know they might like to jail a reporter or two, but it is against the law. 

Why can’t they look at their great government jobs and benefits and be happy to have them, instead of risking all of it to put some small businessman out of business and in jail.  Our framers of the Constitution called it the First Amendment for a reason.  They didn’t think to place it eighth or fifteenth or forget to list it at all.  It is the First Amendment and it guarantees that we will have free speech. Here is the entire First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Oops maybe the local Health Board forgot about petitioning of government for a redress of grievances. Get used to it government.  Facebook, Twitter and blogs is part of the new press.  Do not try to jail your critics.  Try listening to them. Act like you understand that the truth will always come out.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on eGuardianship.com http://eguardianship.wordpress.com// and on Attorney David Engler’s Blog  http://davidengler.wordpress.com//

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“I Get Tired Chasing Tongue Draggers” from the lips of a fired teacher……

By Attorney David Engler

For the last 12 years I have been a school board member of a county board and a career and technical center. On the county board or Educational Service Center we provide the services to help local districts improve. We also run special schools including one for emotionally disturbed children with varying behavioral issues; a school run in conjunction with a great program started by the local Juvenile Court Judge Theresa Dellick.  At the MCCTC almost a third of our students have an IEP. An IEP stands for Individual Education Plan. It is required by law and so many parents do not understand how important to ensure your child’s IEP is carefully constructed to specifically help your child no matter the cost or inconvenience to a district.

 

The worst thing I ever heard was from the lips of a fired teacher who told me how hard it was to chase after “tongue draggers” every day. My emotions were caught in between punching him and simply shaking my head. I am glad we fired him. Instead I will never forget those words and how insensitive some in education can be towards a child with a disability.  And if that disability is one of a severe emotional problem or a slight shade of Autism or Asperger’s, then most of our teachers are ill-trained to help the child with the different wiring. There are many teachers who just get it.  They are naturals at knowing how to reach the student with a disability that can be unnerving and tiring. They also understand the investment a parent has made in this child.  The teacher may have the child 6 hours a week or maybe more if an elementary student.

And often indifference is the answer from an administration concerned about increased costs.  So whether they admit it or not, every administrator knows that a diagnosis of a disability might bring years of extra costs for the district. In a famous case that went all the way to the Supreme Court, Forest Grove School District v. T.A. (2009) the court ruled that the district should have reimbursed the parents for the costs of private schooling since the District should have been aware of the disability and provide assistance to the family.  The District claimed they had no idea there was a problem. Justice Stevens of the Supreme Court stated: “We conclude that IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) authorizes reimbursement for the cost of special education services when a school district fails to provide a FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education) and the private-school placement is appropriate, regardless of whether the child previously received special education or related services through the public school.” The cost to the district was $65000 to reimburse the parents and potentially $500000 in legal fees. 

Every school district is legally required to identify, locate, and evaluate children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(3)). After the evaluation, the district may provide the child with specific programs and services to address special needs.

IDEA defines “children with disabilities” as individuals between the ages of three and 22 with one or more of the following conditions:

  • Mental retardation
  • Hearing impairment (including deafness)
  • Speech or language impairment
  • Visual impairment (including blindness)
  • Serious emotional impairment
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Autism
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Specific learning disability, or
  • Other health impairment                  (20 U.S.C. §1401(3); 34 C.F.R. §300.8).

For your child to qualify for special education under IDEA, it is not enough to have one of these disabilities. There must also be evidence that the disability adversely affects your child’s educational performance.

Now each school district should be well aware of its responsibilities.  But sadly not every administrator can see life from the eyes of a parent struggling to find help for their child.  The schools seem relieved if they can cause the child to graduate and be done with the financial exposure. The former Director of Special Ed for Maryland, Dr. Linda Bluth gave me the best advice ever.  “Our children do not fail…it is we who fail our children.” It is very difficult to cause a school culture to adopt this core belief.  It makes us accountable.  It denies us the ability to blame little to no achievement on a kid with a mental problem, a broken home, a history with children services, parents who think they know better(they almost always do) or some other societal bogeyman.  No we have to own it.  This means we will have failures.  And they will sting. 

But for the guardians and parents there is help for you. I have included some of the language in the federal IDEA statute above to help you know what to do.  The regulations can be found at www.gov/about/offices/list/users.  The country has 81 million students that fit this category.  Ohio has about 3 million.  We need more teachers and aides with special education training. We need to pay them more to encourage their numbers and recognize that their job makes teaching even tougher than it already is.  You can also look at www.mdlclaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/pub-special-ed-handbook. This handbook gives you sample letters to ask for independent evaluations  and how the legal process works.  Or hire a lawyer.

Most importantly we need parents to step forward and be armed with the law as you demand the very best possible Free and Appropriate Public Education for your child. The key word to me is appropriate.  These children are all so very different.   Make sure the IEP has real goals that can be measured without someone guessing that your son or daughter has advanced with soft logic.  Don’t give up and never be afraid to ask to talk directly to the Board of Education.  Often the Board members are shielded from the other side of the story. Do not assume that they will side with the administrators standing in your way.  

You have been given a child with special needs because you can handle it.  I do not need to tell you your journey is tough. Not everyone is going to be understanding.  But I can tell you that the law is on your side and many more people than you could possibly imagine.

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on Family Fault Lines Blog http://familyfaultlines.com/ and on eGuardianship.com http://eguardianship.wordpress.com//

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Addiction Stronger Than Motherhood

By Attorney David Engler

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Custody disputes take place in Juvenile Court, if the families are not married or Domestic Court, if the family is in the process of a divorce or have divorced previously.

Clearly having an agreement about how a couple will jointly parent the child or children is the best result.  But if there is no agreement, often accusations will fly.

And I warn all clients to be aware that the court might order a drug screen at any given time.  The courts will almost always take the child or children from the parent on illegal drugs and give custody to the parent who is not hooked.  Sometimes it is hard to find anyone not taking pain pills without a prescription. In one case both parents and a grandparent were dirty. In Ohio for the first time overdoses of drugs has overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of accidental death.

In one case the mother was asked by the Magistrate to give a urine screen and she said she couldn’t because she had a yeast infection.  Everyone found that to be disgusting and a weak excuse.  Recently a nice looking young mother was asked to take a screen and at first she agreed.  Then after 15 minutes she comes back and said she had just pee’d before court.  The Court told her to drink some water. 30 minutes later still no urine.  I really didn’t need to see a drug test. She had all the signs.  Empty pill bottles without prescriptions.  Selling things from her house.  Unable to keep a schedule.  A doctor at an ER saying no narcotics for you after she came with a complaint of a tooth ache.  (I was thinking good for the doctor who checked the database from his Akron offices and saw she had filled 21 prescriptions for pain meds in the last two years.)

So she only sees her child if supervised.  That is the overwhelming power of the pain pill epidemic. This scourge does not see race, sex or income.  It is even more powerful than a mother’s natural instinct to care for her child. 

People can recover and get their children back.  But the road is very difficult and those who are nearest to the addict must not be fooled.  We the parents, or friend or guardian must dispense very tough love. Get help; call 211. You will find a counselor, clinic or N.A. Group.  It is a persistent enemy.  For some it is stronger than motherhood.

 

Attorney David Engler
Phone: 330-729-9777
http://www.DavidEngler.com Attorney Engler’s website
Areas of Practice: Family Law, Elder Law, Domestic Relations, Bankruptcy, Criminal

Also published on eGuardianship.com http://eguardianship.wordpress.com// and on Attorney David Engler’s Blog  http://davidengler.wordpress.com//

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