ELLSWORTH — It took a contempt citation and their arrest by Hancock County Sheriff William Clark to convince an Ellsworth city councilor and his wife to apply and pay for the building and plumbing permits the city requires.
Councilor Richard Kane and his wife, Meredith, Thursday handed over $69, and Code Enforcement Officer John Dunn presented them with a building and plumbing permit. The 15-minute procedure was witnessed by many newspaper and television reporters.
The Kanes arrived at City Hall armed with Black’s Law Dictionary and a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and accompanied by a group of friends and family members.
Their appearance was not voluntary. They were arrested Wednesday night on a charge of contempt because they had defied 5th District Court Judge Bernard Staples’ order that they secure by Aug. 15 the building and plumbing permits the city requires for a building addition under construction at their home.
The Kanes escaped a 30-day jail sentence by signing a statement, shortly after they arrived at the Hancock County Jail, in which they agreed to apply and pay for the permits on Thursday.
For the past few months, the Kanes have battled with city officials and the courts over city and state requirements that they apply for the appropriate permits to construct an addition on their house and install a $2,300 hot tub. Richard Kane has argued that by forcing him to apply for the permits the city has violated his rights.
Speaking Thursday afternoon before a group of about 25 supporters, some holding signs, Kane read from what he said was the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the passage he cited was from the Declaration of Independence.
“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government,” he read.
“What I would like to do is alter it (government) before we have to abolish it, because it has completely oppressed us. … I am going to take this as far as it has to go to gain our freedom,” he said to cheers from his supporters.
Kane said that at one point he had tried to apply for a building permit. He said that although he did not believe in the permitting process, he had gone to City Hall, but because the code enforcement officer was not there at the time, he went ahead with the project. He said that if he had applied the next day, he would have had to apply for an after-the-fact permit.
Dunn said Thursday that there would not have been an additional cost for an after-the-fact building permit, but that the fee for the plumbing permit would have doubled if applied for after the fact.
When asked if he would use his influence on the City Council to see that the code enforcement office was covered when Dunn was absent, Kane said, “The ordinances that he is pursuing are unconstitutional. Why would you get a part-timer to take care of another unconstitutional office?”
Kane said he did not believe he had compromised his position by avoiding jail. He said he would not have been able to accomplish as much from jail. When pressed about leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela who spent years in jail and brought down governments, Kane replied, “Perhaps I could have if I had had some organization backing me that would keep my family fed while I was in there. But they weren’t going to just keep me in jail, they were going to keep my wife in jail. I didn’t think they’d sink quite that low, but they have.”
Kane Tuesday filed a $1,110,000 lien with the registrar of deeds against the real and personal property of Dunn, Staples and City Attorney Wayne Foote. He said Thursday he also intended to file a Title 42 lawsuit.
“I will name at least the same defendants and possibly one more,” he said, without elaborating on the basis of the lawsuit.
Although he would not identify the fourth person, Kane did say it would be a public official.
“The people who violated my rights will be brought to justice,” he said. He also said he was considering filing charges for false arrest.
“I also have learned since yesterday (Wednesday), that they also are trying to take more rights away from me by depriving my right to go to the county recorder’s office and use their services,” he said.
Kane’s reference was to an action Foote filed in Superior Court earlier this week for a temporary restraining order that would have barred the Kanes from any further filings with the registrar of deeds against Foote, Dunn and Staples. Judge John Atwood denied the restraining order, but said he would set a hearing on Foote’s request for a preliminary injunction against the Kanes.
For the first time Thursday, Meredith Kane, flanked by two of her five daughters, spoke about the controversy. She said she would continue to support her husband’s efforts.
“I feel everything he is saying is right, and I will stick by him,” she said. She said she needed the hot tub for therapeutic use because of an automobile accident she had several years ago.
Kane’s problems with the judicial system are not over. He also faces a civil order of arrest because he did not appear for a disclosure hearing in district court earlier this week. The hearing was scheduled to determine if the Kanes could afford to pay the more than $2,400 in fines and city attorney fees they owe.