Wife of Caseyville Township trustee seeks court-ordered protection from critic

News-DemocratJanuary 5, 2014 

The wife of a Caseyville Township trustee is seeking a court order keeping Brad Van Hoose at least 500 feet from her following a contentious board meeting. Van Hoose says the legal action is an attempt to stifle "tough questions" he's asking of the board's spending.

Deborah Donovan, the wife of Township Trustee Rick Donovan, applied for the court order the day after Van Hoose addressed her during a meeting Dec. 19 at the Township Building.

"I'm scared of him. I really am," Deborah Donovan said.

Van Hoose, of Belleville, said the legal action is an attempt to keep him from meetings where he asks trustees to justify what he sees as exorbitant spending and violations of the Freedom of Information Act.

"It's the most absurd order of protection ever," Van Hoose said. "They don't want me at board meetings or the VFW Hall in Caseyville. (The security guard) never even got up. I did not browbeat Ms. Donovan."

A hearing regarding the court order is scheduled for Wednesday. Van Hoose said he will "clear his name" and is seeking the court-ordered release of audio and video footage of the meeting.

Van Hoose said he politely asked the board during the meeting to comply with a request through the Freedom of Information Act for the legal costs surrounding a settlement with the Cerebral Palsy of Southwestern Illinois, based in Belleville. The board settled the federal lawsuit for $60,000 in August.

"I pled with the board to comply with the law. They wouldn't respond," Van Hoose said. "Since they just got sued for $60,000, I mentioned I wouldn't think it was good for a trustee to park in a handicap parking spot. Debbie Donovan jumped up and started hollering at me."

Rick Donovan said Van Hoose originally directed his questions toward him during the public speaking portion of the meeting.

"Then he looks at her (Deborah Donovan) and says 'You look fine to me,'" Rick Donovan said. "She was in tears trying to explain to him and everyone else there what her handicap was ... He was trying to evoke a physical response from me by attacking my wife.

Deborah Donovan said she has a permanent disability in both her legs and a handicap placard hangs from her vehicle's rearview mirror. The application for the court order alleges Van Hoose yelled at Deborah Donovan during the meeting, then took photos of her car.

Van Hoose said he did take photos of the car, but as a defense against future accusations.

"I've had so many lies spread about me, especially from the township. It's my protection," Van Hoose said.

Rick Donovan said Van Hoose has an ulterior motive for his interest in the township's governance.

"He's upset with me because when I ran for election I just happened to win and his (great) aunt (Betty Burrelsman) had to step down," Donovan said. "He's had a grudge ever since."

Van Hoose said he did not begin attending meetings because his great aunt lost the election, rather it was inappropriate conduct he observed as a Republican pollwatcher on Election Day that led to his interest in Caseyville Township.

The board recently chose to hire a sheriff's deputy to keep order at the meeting. The deputy is paid $50 per hour and will be paid for a minimum of two hours per meeting.

Township Trustee Don Chrismore said the board decided to hire the deputy after a confrontation between Chrismore and Van Hoose in October.

Van Hoose said such accusations were baseless and further attempts to keep him from probing the board's decisions. He cited the board's restriction of public comments to three minutes per person as an example.

Rick Donovan said the time limit was an attempt to "lessen the chance" of Van Hoose provoking a physical confrontation with trustees. "Unfortunately, we have to put limits on it," he said.

Deborah Donovan said she has filed a report with the Fairview Heights Police Department. No charges have been filed against Van Hoose.

Fairview Heights Police Detective James Mason said he was not familiar with the details of the report but explained police thoroughly investigate such complaints.

"Ultimately, what it boils down to is a couple of people involved in local politics that are making accusations against each other. Because of that we want to make sure we are doing the right thing in our investigation, like any other case. But also we are aware of the sensitivity around the complaint because of those holding position in public office," Mason said.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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