Last week, The Blaze covered the story of Clara and Johnnie Russell and the massive fine ($7,200) levied against them for posting this sign on their property outside of Fort Worth, TX:
The more digging we do into this story, the more questions arise:
- Is a squabble over a small yard sign that has been associated with Glenn Beck really about enforcing the rules of the local Homeowners Association or is it politically motivated?
- If the Judge in the case has ties to one side of the argument, why has she not recused herself?
The Judge who levied the huge fine has ties to at least one of the board members of the complaining HOA. These photos used to live on the Facebook page of Kathy Kornegay Chruscielski (HOA board member and personal friend of the Judge Lynn Marie Johnson).
The photos of Judge Johnson previously seen here were removed at the request of photographer and friend of Judge Johnson, Kathy Chruscielski. They were all photos posted on Ms. Chruscielski's public Facebook page. She has since made the photos of Judge Johnson "private."
Additionally, Thomas Stewart, the current president of the HOA is a supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement as well as President Obama.
The HOA President is not shy about his politics, posting this on his Facebook wall.
Thomas Stewart also posted photos and typed support for the Dallas Occupy gathering.
Following the attention brought to this story here and on the Glenn Beck Radio Program, the current President of the Remuda Ranch Estates Homeowners Association - Tommy Stewart - was given op-ed space in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to explain the position of the HOA. Curiously missing from the op-ed was any specific mention to the actual story of the Russells and the HOA. The vague reference is here:
A noncomplying sign that was the subject of recent news reports was posted for about six months before the homeowner was approached by the HOA to take it down. Other signs removed at the HOA's request include an Avon sign, a swimming pool company sign and a sarcastic sign that read "Jack is my new best friend."
HOA President Stewart's op-ed continues:
Title companies are responsible for notifying buyers of deed restrictions, and a notice is posted at the subdivision entrance stating that deed restrictions are enforced.
In our initial interview, the Russells told The Blaze that they were not aware of a Homeowners Association when they moved to the area. They also claimed that they never paid dues to an HOA or signed membership papers with an HOA. Clara and Tommie Russell actually offered proof that there was not an HOA when they purchased their home.
Clara Russell told The Blaze that the judge refused to consider any of the photos of other signs spotted in the subdivision and also denied her the opportunity to question the HOA president about the notice of violation.
Last week the Russells appeared before Judge Johnson again, this time to argue that they could not afford to pay the judgement and certainly could not post the 200% bond required to appeal the case. The judge did not rule on Clara and Johnnie's appeal, delaying any further discussion of the issue to December 1st.
Oddly enough, when Lynn Marie Johnson was running for office last Fall, she issued a statement letting voters know they could expect fair treatment from her.
It is important that the Justice of the Peace take into consideration the seriousness of the offense, the threat to the community, and sound legal principles before the bond is set.
Is a small yard sign a threat to the community or a serious offense?
Aside from the curious connections between the Judge and the members of the HOA board, the size of the fine slapped on the Russells brings the question of fairness to the front of this story.
As stated above, Clara and Johnnie Russell are due back in Judge Johnson's court on Thursday, December 1st.
In advance of that hearing, they will also be guests on Glenn Beck's Tuesday program on GBTV.
(H/T: Trent Thevenot of the Iowa State 9-12 Project)