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Town and Country Aldermen Change Harassment Laws

At their meeting Monday night, the Town and Country board of aldermen voted to change the city's harassment laws as result of threatening e-mail traced back to one of its alderman's computer.

A number of issues were discussed at Monday Night's Town and Country Board of Aldermen meeting, however, two issues top Patch's wrap of the meeting.

Town and Country Harassment Laws

At Monday night's Town and Country Board of Alderman meeting, only one agenda item was acted on: a .

The change comes as a result the city being left without much power to punish Alderman David Karney after a threatening e-mail was traced back to his computer. After a police investigation, the St. Louis Country Prosecutor's office decided it would not pursue criminal charges and the city was left only being able to censure Karney for his actions, which is nothing more than a public reprimand.

Board members said this change will now more clearly define what is considered harassment, including when a person makes a threat anonymously, or aids a person in making such threat. The change also defines what makes a person criminally responsible for that act. 

"We wanted to be perfectly clear this behavior is unacceptable," said Mayor Jon Dalton, referring to the e-mail sent from Karney's computer to Alderman Fred Meyland-Smith. Karney denied sending the e-mail, but refused to reveal the source of the e-mail.

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When Town and Country had to deal with the matter within its own laws, the city had nothing clearly identifying the act as criminal behavior.

The new policy defines harassment as criminal behavior if a person "frightens, intimidates or causes emotional distress to another person by anonymously, or through the use of an alias, pseudonym or assumed name, making a telephone call or any electronic communication..."

Further, the amendment makes it a crime to aid a person who has made a threat by concealing any information pertaining to the offense.

Before the meeting, Karney told Patch he would support the bill, though he did not go into specifics when asked why he would support it.

"It's what they want, let them have it," Karney said. The proposed amendment passed unanimously.

Meyland-Smith said he was happy to see the bill passed because the city needed an ordinance that clearly addressed anonymity in the case of harassment.

"People need to be held accountable for their actions," Meyland-Smith said.

At their last January meeting, the board had also voted to give Dalton the power to appoint a private prosecutor to further investigate the source of the e-mail. Dalton said he had not yet made a decision on that matter.

"The authority was granted but we are still considering our options," Dalton said.

Since that meeting, Karney has dropped out of the April election. At the time of the January meetig, he was running for re-election for his seat as alderman.

Building Permits

Another issue that has brought residents speaking out on both sides at board meetings for months, is the request by one resident to add solar panels to his property.

Monday night, the board could not reach a decision on two building permits that were in the agenda for second reading.

Resident Joe Gira applied for a conditional use permit to build a a solar panel in his back yard. Although Town and Country's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approving the permit, some residents spoke out against it since the item has been in the agenda.

Dorothy Cooke, one of Gira's neighbor, has been the most vocal at the meetings, arguing the structure can be seen by many residents in a nearby neighborhood, is not aesthetically pleasing and could reduce the value of property around the area.

"It's physically and visually incompatible with the area," Cooke said. " I think an industrial looking installation of this size can't help, but affect the value of a residential area."

Although the board has been discussion the issue for months, aldermen voted to postpone voting on the item until the March 14 meeting. Meyland-Smith, who is part of the planning and zoning commission, said the city had never dealt with an alternative energy-source structure and may need to revisit its policies.

"There are a number of dimensions to solar energy we must consider so they be built into a future meeting's discussion," Meyland-Smith said.

The board also voted to continue discussion on a conditional use permit for the construction of a tree house until the next meeting Monday, Feb. 28.

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