A judge on Wednesday denied a court order of protection sought by the wife of a Caseyville Township trustee against a man who criticizes township spending.
Deborah Donovan, wife of Township Trustee Rick Donovan, applied for the order of protection against Brad Van Hoose following a township board meeting Dec. 19.
St. Clair County Associate Judge Patricia Kievlan denied the order following a hearing.
Kievlan said she does not doubt Deborah Donovan is afraid of Van Hoose but Donovan did not prove Van Hoose must be kept away from her and public meetings.
"People saying things you don't like isn't against the law," Kievlan told Donovan. "People saying things you don't like isn't a threat."
Van Hoose played an audio recording of the Dec. 19 meeting before the judge. The exchange between Van Hoose and Deborah Donovan lasted a couple minutes.
In the recording, Van Hoose says a trustee should not have parked in a handicap spot outside the Township Building without handicap plates. Deborah Donovan had parked in the handicap spot because she has a permanent disability in her legs.
Kievlan said she believes Rick Donovan's response was "loud" and "aggressive." Kievlan said Deborah Donovan responded to Van Hoose's questions without him directly asking her.
"I didn't hear Van Hoose attack you verbally," the judge told Deborah Donovan. "You felt like you had to explain but he didn't ask you that."
Deborah Donovan alleged in court that Van Hoose "verbally attacked" her during the meeting. She described Van Hoose in court as a "loose cannon about to go off."
"He kept pushing my buttons. Anything to upset me," Deborah Donovan said. "I just feel like he's an intentional trouble maker stirring trouble with everyone."
Van Hoose said he regrets if Deborah Donovan is afraid but his actions did not rise to the level of the court keeping him from public meetings. Van Hoose has been asking the township board to justify what he believes is excessive spending and violations of the Freedom of Information Act.
Deborah Donovan and Van Hoose both represented themselves during the hearing, and asked one another questions throughout.
At one point, Deborah Donovan asked Van Hoose, "Why are you out to get me?"
Van Hoose responded he was not out to get her and he brought up the parking issue because he believed Rick Donovan had parked there unlawfully.
Kievlan said the key testimony in the hearing stemmed from Joseph Steinhauer. Steinhauer, a sheriff's deputy, was providing security for the board during the Dec. 19 board meeting.
Steinhauer testified he did not believe Van Hoose was a threat during the township board meeting. Van Hoose was not arrested and voluntarily left the meeting.
Kievlan had some advice for both of the parties at the hearing.
"Politics are rough," Kievlan told Deborah Donovan. "If you are going to be in politics, you better get a thick skin. There's always going to be something somebody says you don't like. You must be able to walk away."
Kievlan was a member of the St. Clair County Board for four years prior to her appointment as judge.
Kievlan told Van Hoose she admired those involved in the political process but "contrary to popular belief people hear you better when you are not yelling at them."
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2501.