Hamilton, Jefferson, and Washington

The Devil's Advocate:


I have provided a timeline of events for my most recent confrontation with the city of Barnesville's governing body and police regarding what I consider violation of the law, and hence my rights. The timeline deals with the issue of the spite-fence, but there are numerous incidents besides this one, two others of major proportion.

However, in discussions with people about the spite-fence issue, several legitimate questions have been raised. I have summarized some of these questions and responded to them.

My responses to these issues are my own personal opinion. This FAQ, including both the questions and the answers, is not in any way an attempt to provide legal advice or represent professional legal opinion.

We live in a democracy -- it's up to the individual to solve local problems. The majority rules.

This is a common refrain in Minnesota, and Governor Ventura likes to tell the story of how he organized a community on a local level to bring about change.

However, I'd like to suggest there's a difference here. It's one thing to organize local voters to bring about desired changes favored by a majority of citizens at a local level. It's quite another to expect the victim of local government's violations of individual and civil rights to forget about the violations and organize citizens to vote out those in charge of the unlawful operations of the local government.

As for voting out the wrongdoers, there have been numerous changes in the people sitting on the Barnesville City Council since I have lived here, but the results are no different. In a number of instances people here in Barnesville have run for a council seat vowing to work for change. Once in power, they generally become little different than the ones already there.

According to Herbert W. Titus in America: Republic or Democracy? (please note this is a .pdf document and will download if you click on this link) the framers of the constitution feared the lawlessness of genuine democracy. Indeed, that's why they crafted a republic with democratic elements. In my opinion, the state of Minnesota has forgotten that it is a member of a republic and as such has an obligation to protect individuals from violation of their constitutional rights. The only words spoken here are democracy and local control.

As William R. Thornton says in Republic vs. Democracy, a democracy killed Socrates simply because the majority of citizens didn't like him. He hadn't really done anything wrong.

The state of Minnesota has refused to accept responsibility for protecting individuals from the lawless majority. This effectively saves the state from the necessity of actually having to DO something about problems brought to their attention. David Grossack, in "Suing Your Federal Government for Civil Rights Violations" argues that our Constitution clearly expects states to enforce the rights the federal government protects in the United States Constitution.

My personal opinion is that the state of Minnesota and other states (if they follow this same practice in providing no oversight of their municipalities) are negligent -- and should be held accountable for that negligence -- for failing to protect the rights of individuals, rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Let me be very clear here -- this is obviously my personal opinion, not a legal statement and others may disagree with this perspective. However, I believe the situation I have described merits careful scrutiny. The Enron debacle happened largely because there was no oversight of many of its activities. There's little difference between what happened at Enron for lack of oversight and what happens in the state of Minnesota because the state provides no oversight of municipalities -- entities the state charters.

What kind of violations are you talking about?

While I have provided a timeline with dates, some have asked for a list of the violations.

I have provided a list of what I consider the major violations to be, although there are many others. Some residents here have provided the Minnesota state government with evidence of misappropriation of federal monies, but the persons charged with representing the state of Minnesota refuse to address the issues.

Does Minnesota suffer from an obsessive need to appear as if nothing is wrong?

This may sound like a strange question to those who are unfamiliar with the obsessive need on the part of people in this area to avoid making waves, rocking the boat, or in any way disturbing the illusion that everyone is getting alone just fine. Indeed, this need to see no discord where chaos reigns is the basis of much of the ethnic humor here. It's called "Minnesota nice." Of course, it isn't, but it provides a very effective way to avoid having to deal with the real problems on the table.

Time and time again I have been at meetings where serious problems are on the agenda, such as the school district being in statutory operating debt. The only conversations allowed are how we all need to stand together here so an appearance of friendly agreement can be fabricated and a united front presented to everyone. Anyone bringing up a problem, like well, just the same, how are we going to pay our teachers, is openly chastised for being negative. In Minnesota, negativity is a dirty word and to be labeled negative is a public sentence for being made an outcast and singled out for persecution. This allows the problem on the table to be buried and totally ignored.

I've been told by one attorney that the court decisions in Minnesota are for the defendents 75 percent of the time. In other words, it seems, even the courts in Minnesota are biased against anyone who has the nerve to bring legal action against another person.

In Minnesota, this cultural bias prevents problems from being addressed and promotes pervasive lawlessness. While local control may be dominated by this obsessive need to avoid the issues on the table, there is no excuse for the state of Minnesota, as a member of a republic, to ignore the problems in the state -- and avoid having to deal with them -- by chanting the word democracy and mouthing the words local control.

Should appeal processes be vested in an elected county attorney?

In Minnesota, the county attorney has the discretion -- and the final say -- in whether any complaint in the county is addressed. The only problem is that in Minnesota, this county attorney is an elected official. My experience clearly shows that this is a formula for protecting lawlessness.

My county attorney refused to address the issues I brought to her attention, not once, but twice. These involved discrimination by the police and alleged doctoring of police records. In Minnesota, the state provides no higher level of appeal. This same county attorney, however, a few months later did file charges against a prostitution ring on the second floor of the building adjacent to the police department. The local police miraculously escaped being part of the suit.

I have been told that no attorney is going to go up against a municipality in Minnesota if they have political aspirations. Some attorneys in Minnesota do take on municipalities, but they know the chances of winning against a municipality are so slim the charges must be grievous to even take the case. Police, for example, must be actually beating people up or jailing them without cause before an attorney can win a settlement large enough to make it worth while taking the violations to court. The state of Minnesota, then, is leaving it up to the victims of crime to bear the legal costs of enforcing state and federal laws, all in the name of local control. If, that is, the victim can even find an attorney to take the case.

Why didn't you negotiate?

This is a legitimate question. Obviously no one wants to litigate a spite-fence issue. However, my attorney tried to negotiate with the other person's attorney, but with no positive results.

Did I ever try to talk to the neighbor? I was never given an opportunity to without the police present. As I noted in the timeline and my list of violations, I had tried to park my car in my driveway, on my property, to prevent the man from putting fence posts in my tire track until the lawyers could negotiate a settlement. However, the Barnesville police officer would not allow me to do this. He said if I did not move the car, he would have it towed. I asked him what the consequences would be if he had no legal right to tow my car. The officer blithely told me he "couldn't be held accountable for anything he did."

This neighbor wrote defamatory letters to my attorney and county officials about how my attorney was practicing law without a license. He sent a number of letters to various county officials with similarly untruthful comments about me. My personal belief is that this person was not interested in meaningful negotiation and his actions clearly showed this.

This man is obviously very angry. What did you to do make him so mad?

The assumption is that I did something to make this man so mad. If the bit of gravel from my driveway (which hadn't been regravelled for over five years) occasionally got pushed into his grass and upset him, he never discussed it with me. Indeed, until I had the survey done, he had no idea where the property line really was. But once I paid for a survey and the boundaries were noted (this property hadn't been surveyed since it was platted in the 1880s), he felt he had a right to "mark his property line" by obstructing my driveway even though he had no survey to show where the actual property line was.

Obviously this man is angry. But there is such a thing as displaced or projected anger, and I was an easy target, especially when the Barnesville city police were so cooperative in supporting his requests no matter their basis in law, and refusing to support any of my requests even when public safety was involved.

Why didn't you move?

My house was for sale at the time the fence issue arose. Obviously I intended to move. The suit took 14 months to resolve, delaying my ability to sell my home.

When I ask about reparations for the losses incurred from this delay or any of the financial or emotional costs of the process, it has been suggested I am showing I'm not interested in democratically correcting the problems by running for the Barnesville City Council.

My personal belief is my individual and civil rights should be protected by the State of Minnesota, which grants the charters to its municipalities, when there is clear evidence that the law is being violated. I shouldn't have to run for the city council or demonstrate that I plan to stay in the neighborhood to request that my individual and civil rights be protected and expect remuneration for my losses caused by the city of Barnesville and it's police running roughshod over my individual and civil rights.

Everybody knows small towns are like this, don't they?.

I hear this often. My response is -- what more reason than to address the problem rather than ignore it. Or worse, hold the individual victim responsible for fixing the problems by voting out those guilty of the crimes. All the while, of course, ignoring the actual crimes or the real damages done to the victims by the violations. No one expected individual citizens to overthrow the Taliban by voting in new leaders, but the state of Minnesota seems to think victims of crimes perpetrated by state-chartered entities should be able to take care of the problems on their own in an atmosphere of lawlessness.

Times have changed. Minnesota is no longer a state where people who cannot speak the English language are walking behind two oxen pulling a single-bottom plow.

What worked in the 19th century isn't working in the 21st. It's time the people of Minnesota woke up to the lawlessness they condone in silence and started putting the processes in place to put Minnesota on a track where individuals could find their rights defended and protected by the state if local control becomes lawless. Indeed, if the state of Minnesota is to consider itself a member of the United States and benefit from federal largesse, it should be required to do so.

Diane Haugen
email: WhiskeyCreek@wcdd.com

Banana Republics in The Heartland

Essay on Minnesota's Banana Republics

Timeline of Events in Spite Fence Issue

List of Violations

Additional Rights Violation Incidents

Case Law

Links Related to Issues Civil and Individual Rights Issues

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