Melrose Park, IL. (ECWd) -
This Complaint includes allegations of violations of the First and Fourth Amendments, targeted harassment, racist language used by the Mayor during public meeting, and excessive fines, among others (article contains vulgar language from the Complaint).
On February 22, 2021, Plaintiffs (two 80 year old Illinois residents and their caregiver) filed suit in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois against the Village of Melrose Park ("VMP") and its Mayor, Ronald Serpico, after the 80 year old couple were cited by the Town for putting up Christmas Lights this past holiday season.
The plaintiffs were also cited for placing lawn chairs on the front lawn of their home and on their front porch.
From the Complaint:
- Two Melrose Park octogenarian residents. They found themselves at the center of a coordinated campaign of harassment by certain VMP officials. Defendants issued Plaintiffs over 53 bogus tickets and numerous parking tickets in retaliation for asserting certain constitutional rights. These tickets occurred on a near daily basis since
December 2020. Plaintiffs now face over $26,000.00 in fines including a property lien for $15,500.00. Plaintiff’s son Michael has received threatening phone calls and his car was vandalized. The VMP has demonstrated no indication that it intends to halt its code enforcement against Plaintiffs
- The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of socially distant forms of expression, making the right to have chairs on one’s personal property even more poignant. COVID-19 continues to impact the nation and has been especially impactful in Cook County. COVID-19 also has disproportionately impacted senior citizens.
- Throughout the pandemic, Vincent and Angeline’s lawn chairs have been the safest way to socially distance themselves from others without becoming socially isolated or exposed to Covid-19.
VMP also complained about the Plaintiff's flag, political sign, and religious decorations, issuing two tickets totaling $1000.
Plaintiffs attempted to comply with the tickets, but were unsuccessful in meeting with the Code Enforcement Officer. A neighbor tried to assist, but was told by Code Enforcement Officer to "stay out of the matter."
- Faced with few options, Michael began to attend various public meetings in Melrose Park and post public Facebook videos and statements to bring attention to these grievances and criticize the VMP’s treatment of his parents.
- In response to Plaintiffs’ purported non-compliance and public grievances, Defendants began a targeted campaign to bully, harass, and retaliate against them for asserting their constitutional rights.
- The acts constituting harassment and retaliation by the Defendants include repeatedly issuing Plaintiffs tickets, ringing their doorbell to deliver tickets on Saturdays and Sundays, leaving warning notes, improperly surveilling and patrolling Plaintiffs’ house, putting a lien on their property, and threatening Michael with physical violence.
Around December 1, 2020, Plaintiffs decorated their front yard for Christmas, and were met later that day with Code Enforcement Officers demanding they "put that clutter away" because their boss had received anonymous complaints about their chairs, political sign, political flag, and Christmas decorations.
Alleged parking violations and more tickets soon followed, with at least 53 more $500 per offense municipal code violations citations. These totaled more than $26,000.
Later, verbal assaults by police officers and village employees were lodged against Plaintiffs, including once when a an employee drive by, slowed down, rolled his window down, and said "you're lucky I don't get out of this car and beat your ass."
Plaintiffs received death threats - one from 312-480-8765, and the other from a restricted number:
- “Wait till I see you. I’m splitting your curly wig, you dead beat Cunt. This is my neighborhood; you best get the fuck out before we make you get out.”
- “Listen, you sheep head motherfucker. I’m going putting to put a piece in the back of your motherfucking skull. I’m going to fuck your mother and your father. Get the fuck out of Melrose Park before you catch a fucking beating. Do you understand me, you fucking cunt motherfucker? Do you have any idea who the fuck you’re fucking with? You’ll be dead, you motherfucker. I’m telling you one time. Last fucking time I’m going to
call you, you piece of shit cunt motherfucker.”
Plaintiff's car window was then broken on Dec 20th.
The Mayor refused to permit Plaintiff to speak during public comment at an open public meeting in January, 2021.
While refusing his right to talk, Mayor Serpico began a profanity-laden and racial tirade as stated below:
Serpico: Let me tell you something, you’re lucky . . . I’m going to tell you something, you’re really reaching me. So, do me a fucking favor and sit down and shut the fuck up. How’s that? You little fucking prick. Go on, shake your fucking head. You’re nothing but a fucking punk.
Serpico: Because you’re a jag off!
Michael: What did I do to you?
Serpico: YOU’RE A JAG OFF! You look like a fucking shine on 5th [ave] because you’re doing it to bust fucking balls. That’s what you’re doing. So, go fuck yourself! GO FUCK YOURSELF!
Michael: You guys are busting my balls. Did you know my window got broken?
Serpico: I give a fuck about your window. Like I worry about your fucking house when I drive past it. Now do me a favor and go sit down and shut up.
Michael: Obviously, you do.
Serpico: Yeah, because you live like a piece of shit. You’re like a fucking hillbilly. You’re like a hillbilly!
Michael: There’s chairs outside. We’re not bothering nobody [sic].
Serpico: Oh Mike, you’re doing it on purpose, please. Trust me, you are.
Read the Complaint (HERE), or below, it gets worse...