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Protesters, mayor clash at Overland Park City Council meeting

Protesters denied chance to speak at meeting
Posted at 6:52 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 20:08:20-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in 2018 and the subsequent payoff given to the police officer who killed him led to a contentious and heated Overland Park City Council meeting Monday night.

Citizens and protesters demanded an opportunity to speak on the subject, but instead talked over the meeting when denied that chance.

“Why are you talking about a pool, when a young boy was massacred in his own driveway,” Bob Hoffman said after speaking about seven minutes without council approval at the start of the meeting. "His mother is here with us right now."

"Officer, could you remove these two from the council chambers?” Overland Park Mayor Carl Gerlach directed police officers in response to Hoffman and another protester standing and speaking before the meeting.

Hoffman and a group associated with Miller Dream were hoping to speak about the 2018 shooting of John Albers.

As the I-Team first reported in June, the city of Overland Park paid the police officer who shot Albers as he backed out of the driveway at his home, Officer Clayton Jenison, $70,000 to resign.

Public comment wasn’t included on the agenda for Monday night's council meeting, so it wasn’t allowed. The next public comment period scheduled at an Overland Park City Council meeting isn't until Sept. 14.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s typical of how the mayor and the city council do business,” Hoffman said.

A woman who only identified herself as “Q” said, “September is too late, especially for Ms. Albers who’s been fighting to get information out in the open for going on three years."

During the meeting, one of the protesters, speaking over the council as it conducted business said, “We are voices of the people and demand to be heard.”
Gerlach, speaking to the city attorney after the outburst asked, “Do I have the right to clear the whole place?”

Gerlach didn’t empty the room.

Instead, the meeting continued over the constant talking of protesters.

“What they did, to me, last night was completely inappropriate,” Councilman Paul Lyons said

He said he’s been meeting with Miller Dream representatives to understand their issues and concerns, noting that members of the group recently staged a loud protest in two Overland Park neighborhoods after 10 p.m. that upset area residents.

Lyons said whatever rapport he built with the group was destroyed at the city council meeting.

But a Miller Dream member, who only identified himself as Patrick, said Lyons would listen, but then offer excuses about why he couldn’t help them.

"We've brought issues to the council we want addressed for about a month now and they never talk about them,” Patrick said.

Councilman Faris Farissati said, even though public comment wasn’t on Monday night’s agenda, the protesters' voices should’ve been heard.

"The mayor has jurisdiction to allow public comment and there could not be a better time to let these people speak," he said.

While the protesters didn’t get that opportunity, the council met behind closed doors in executive session to talk about the Albers case for 40 minutes.

Just prior to Monday’s meeting, council members were given a huge binder of information on the case, but no time to review it before the executive session to talk about it.

Farassati said that binder should’ve been supplied to council members at least a week before the meeting. Lyons offered a different take.

"We didn't go to anywhere near the level of detail that is listed in this book," Lyons said. "Personally, I don't have a lot of interest in all that detail."

While the council didn’t speak publicly about the Albers case or Jenison's buyout, members did pass a motion in open session to begin a civil investigation of Councilman Scott Hamblin for his possible removal from office.

Hamblin was charged with domestic battery in Johnson County District Court last month.

Prior to the meeting, Hamblin’s wife, Curstin, who is the alleged victim in battery case, sent a letter to the mayor and council supporting her husband and asking them not to play politics with their personal business.

The last passage of the letter is directed at Mayor Gerlach.

“Sir, my family matters should not be used by you or any council member as a public platform to remove a challenging voice from the council," the letter read, in part. "Using your platform is neither ethical, nor fair.”

Farassati asked to read the letter during the Hamblin discussion at Monday’s meeting, but he was not allowed to do it.

"Mrs. Hamblin's statement should've been at the top of the agenda," Farassati said.

Hamblin and Farassati have clashed with the mayor and other council members on a wide range of issues including tax incentives for businesses and hazard pay for police during the pandemic.

Lyons said he’s been diametrically opposed to Hamblin and Farassati on those issues and other ones, but he said his support for Hamblin’s removal from office is due to a higher standard of behavior expected from public officials.

Lyons said he supports Hamblin’s removal whether he’s convicted of the charge against him or not.

"He, in my view, has lost all credibility being able to represent himself or his ward on our city council," Lyons said.