June 1, 2009

Officials: Lawnmower case sensationalized

City officials in Sandusky, Ohio, say they would support dropping charges against a man arrested for refusing orders to stop mowing an overgrown park.

John Hamilton, 48, was charged with persistent disorderly conduct and obstructing official business after being arrested Thursday morning by police who said he refused to stop mowing Central Park.

City officials, including ex officio Mayor Craig Stahl and City Manager Matt Kline, authored a news release Saturday saying national media outlets that had picked up on the story did not tell the city's side of events, the Sandusky Register reported Monday.

The sensationalized story of man mowing the grass at one of our parks has taken on a life of its own, the release stated. Sensationalism in journalism is irresponsible. The process should not be politicized. Unfortunately, this situation seems to be going down that path.

Kline and Stahl said allowing private citizens to mow public land without the city's approval raises liability issues. The release said citizens should consult with City Hall before taking on a project involving parks or other public property.

The release said city officials support the prosecutor's office and will support whatever decision is made, including the dropping of the charges.

The Register said public reaction has almost universally favored Hamilton, with some residents on local Web sites discussing the possibility of protesting in his defense.

Hamilton, who has pleaded not guilty, is due back in court Aug. 3.