by Timothy Sandefur
The City of Arnold, Missouri, has issued a press release on city letterhead attacking Homer and Julie Tourkakis for daring to defend themselves in the courts when the city decided to condemn their property. You can read that abusive press release here. Today, the city sent this press release by mail to every voter in the city.
In response, I wrote the following letter to the editor of the Jefferson (MO) County Journal:
It is a sad day when elected officials not only wield their power to seize the property of law-abiding citizens, but also take the time to denigrate them in public with press releases written and published on the taxpayer's dime. But this is just what the City of Arnold has chosen to do in a press release which it mailed to every voter in the City (at taxpayer expense), and in a recent story in this paper. In these statements, the City has called Homer Tourkakis a liar and accused him of various wrongful acts in seeking to defend his property from the city’s use of eminent domain.
Let us get the facts right. The City decided to take away Dr. Tourkakis's dentist office without his consent, and give it away to a multimillion dollar private development company to construct a shopping center. Unfortunately for every citizen of Missouri, the city succeeded, in the process changing state law so that now every town and village in Missouri, no matter how small, can use eminent domain to seize people's homes and businesses and give the land to favored private interests.
That inexcusable abuse of authority alone indicates the contempt that Arnold's bureaucrats have for the rights of residents. Yet still it was not enough for them; in the meantime, they called Dr. Tourkakis "selfish" for standing up for his constitutional right of private property, and are now accusing him in letters sent to City voters of lying about how much money they "offered" him for his land—"offered," that is, along with the threat of eminent domain. But it does not matter how much the city "offered" him. As an American and a property owner, Homer Tourkakis had the right to refuse any such offers, and to insist on a fair day in court. The city now claims that for him to exercise his constitutional right to due process of law was "wasteful" and a "delay." Shame on them.
City officials are employees of the public. For them to waste the people's money by attacking Dr. Tourkakis for defending himself in court—as he has a constitutional right to do—is dismal proof of their irresponsibility, lack of professionalism, and contempt for individual rights.
Senior Staff Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation, and attorney for Homer and Julie Tourkakis