Elk Mound considering repeal of loitering ordinance
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By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — Members of the Elk Mound Village Board are considering whether to repeal the village’s ordinance 11-2-5 pertaining to loitering and unlawful assembly.
There was an incident in Turtle Lake where a motorist was cited for loitering under an ordinance similar to the Elk Mound ordinance, and such ordinances have been deemed unconstitutional, said Elk Mound Police Chief Chad Weinberger at the Elk Mound Village Board’s March 6 meeting.
According to videos posted online, the Turtle Lake incident occurred in August of 2022 and involved a man named Travis Heinze, who was resting in his car after a long road trip. The Turtle Lake police chief apparently woke up Heinze and ordered him to leave town, citing the Turtle Lake ordinance on loitering.
In the video, Heinze appears to be parked in the empty parking lot of perhaps a park.
The police chief says Heinze has been there all day and that he is being ordered to leave town. When Heinze asks what he has done wrong, he is told there is an ordinance that does not allow loitering and to get out of town
Heinze returned to Turtle Lake several days later to file a formal complaint about the police chief and tells a village employee that he has been conferring with legal counsel and will be filing a lawsuit against the village.
In the meantime, the Turtle Lake Village Board held a special village board meeting and had suspended the loitering ordinance, according to the video.
The Turtle Lake Village Board held a special meeting August 30, 2022, to “consider/act on suspension and recodification of the Village of Turtle Lake Ordinance 11-2-4, loitering, which was recorded and enacted 4/20/1992,” according to an agenda posted online.
The agenda also included “consider/act on performance of an independent review of the public interaction between TL Police Department and a member of the public on 8/24/2022.”
According to various online sources, federal courts have ruled against similar loitering ordinances for being overly broad, vague and not addressing any kind of crime except the “crime” of merely being present in a particular situation.
The overly-broad loitering ordinances, sources say, allow police officers to discriminate against people they do not like but who have not committed a crime, leading some to speculate that someone out for a walk or someone waiting for another person to join him or her could be cited for loitering.
Elk Mound has other ordinances that cover the areas the loitering ordinance may have been intended to address, such as the ordinances on parks, Police Chief Weinberger said.
Elk Mound has specific ordinances pertaining to “no trespassing” and an ordinance that prohibits camping or sleeping in parks, the police chief said, noting that unlawful assembly also is covered elsewhere in the village’s ordinances.
If someone is trespassing on private property, other ordinances deal with trespassing and disorderly conduct. Just because someone is sleeping in a car does not mean that activity is criminal, the police chief said.
The Elk Mound Village Board should consider repealing the ordinance, Police Chief Weinberger said.
If there was an incident in Elk Mound that could bring Elk Mound to the front of the news cycle, that is something Elk Mound does not need, said Village Trustee Cynthia Abraham, adding that no municipality needs to make the news for an unconstitutional ordinance.
The ordinance will be tabled until the next meeting, said Greg Kipp, village president.
Each village board member can consider the ordinance themselves, and it does not need to go to a committee, said Village Trustee Terry Stamm.
The Elk Mound Village Board adjourned into closed session for about 30 minutes to discuss a potential job sharing arrangement between Police Chief Weinberger and Officer David Vodenlich of the Boyceville Police Department and the assignment of Police Chief Weinberger to temporary light duty.
Lukas Montgomery, Boyceville village president, also was present.
Upon reconvening into open session, Kipp said Police Chief Weinberger should proceed with talking to the village’s attorney about a contract between Elk Mound and Boyceville and that Boyceville would have the village’s attorney review the contract as well.
Montgomery said he had talked to Boyceville’s insurance company and both Elk Mound and Boyceville are under the same umbrella so there is no liability.
Overtime is a consideration, too. Both villages would be subcontracting, and a 1099 could be issued under mutual aid, Montgomery said.
Mileage should be part of the agreement, too, Stamm said.
The Elk Mound Village Board unanimously approved a motion to authorize a job-sharing agreement between Elk Mound Police Chief Chad Weinberger and Boyceville Police Officer David Vodenlich, pending legal counsel, and to assign Police Chief Weinberger to light duty.