In December, 2012, a Long Beach resident was accused of shooting and killing his wife. After several years of legal maneuvers, the case was dismissed by a Winnemac, IN, judge, where it had been transferred for trial. Several lawsuits involving the alleged conduct of Long Beach Police Officers and others were brought by the defendant. While those lawsuits were pending, Long Beach Town Councilwoman Jane Starr Neulieb began making public statements advocating her take on the issues of the case, prompting LaPorte County Prosecutor John Espar to request that she cease and desist.
That brings us to the Police Commission meeting of October 5, 2016. Although the Long Beach Police Commission consists of Chief Robert Sulkowski, Peter Byvoets, Jane Neulieb, and Barbara Morgan, of these only Sulkowski, Neulieb and Morgan were present for the meeting.
Chief Sulkowski started by reading the letter that had been prepared by Prosecutor Espar with regard to Town Councilwoman Jane Starr Neulieb discussing in public the Judge’s ruling on the three (2 were Long Beach) Police Officers. He noted that there was a pending civil rights lawsuit in Federal Court involving the officers. Mrs. Neulieb interrupted several times to state that she had every right to talk about the ruling. The Chief responded that he, like Mr. Espar, felt that as a town official she should not be advocating a position adverse to the town publicly, while the case was still pending, possibly is putting the Police Officers and the Town of Long Beach in a bad position before litigation had been completed. Mrs. Neulieb snapped that she should not have to give up her civil rights and feel threatened by the Police, and that it was cowardly for Chief Sulkowski to seek the protection of Prosecuting Attorney Espar. She then brought up the Flint, Michigan, water pollution situation and noted how those Town employees had kept quiet. (Mrs. Neulieb did not explain how the Flint lead pollution situation was germaine) She stated that she was going to continue to make the judge’s ruling public and state to her position.
Board Member Barbara Morgan asked if Julie Paulsen, our Town Attorney, had given any indication about how the case was going to be handled. Mrs. Neulieb didn’t know the answer but continued calling for an investigation into the “Ponzi scheme” (as she identified the situation) and then changed the reference to “organized crime”. The Councilwoman also said she wanted the matter investigated by the State Police, though it was a civil case in Federal Court.
During this time if anyone attending the meeting tried to ask a question or make a statement in a civil manner, Mrs. Neulieb told them to shut up because it was not public forum at the time. She also threatened to have police officers escort them out of the meeting if they did not comply! (One wonders if the officers she referred to were the same ones she wanted fired?)
Barbara Morgan then went on with the Agenda which included other items that the Chief and his officers were working on. One item of interest was that the Town no longer has a Dispatcher from 10p.m. until 6 a.m. because of budget cuts. That upset the audience. Mrs. Neulieb, undaunted, wanted to know what percentage of the time that there at two Police Officers present on duty. She stated that the Chief is not all that busy and doesn’t need two officers on duty at the same time. She did not make it clear how she knew this. To further complicate the issue she changed the subject a second time and complained that the Chief didn’t respond to an e-mail in a timely enough manner. (Mrs. Neulieb was evidently referring to an email complaint from Jeff Bartlett, son-in-law of Peter Byvoets [See: It’s A Family Affair] Sulkowski responded that if someone had a complaint, he or she should call the Department. The Chief had been absent for a few days for medical reasons. No one had access to his e-mails for a number of reasons—so Neulieb and Bartlett complained about his timeliness.)
When the audience was finally allowed public comment, Mrs. Neulieb constantly degraded and interrupted them if their views were not consistent with hers. She gave every appearance of having a bias against the Long Beach Police Department its Chief and its officers.
One Resident attempted to defend the Long Beach Police Department for their quick response to complaints in her neighborhood. There were three separate instances, she said, one of which was a burglary in progress. Jane told this resident that if people didn’t call 911 instead of the LB non-emergency then they were “either stupid or pathetic”. The resident stopped and asked if the Councilwoman, as a representative of the Town of Long Beach, was calling her stupid or pathetic? Neulieb replied, “Yes, I am!”
Then the resident tried to explain that it was uncertain that the first two situations were emergencies, but on the third situation, which they realized involved possible personal injury to a resident, 911 was called. It is unclear whether Mrs. Neulieb heard any of this, however, as she was engaged in pounding her chest and repeating “poor, poor Resident” (in a mocking tone) over and over while the citizen tried to speak.
Apparently if a Long Beach resident calls the Long Beach non–emergency number for a non-emergency, they are either stupid or pathetic, at least according to Jane Neulieb.
Nor did things end there. At the town meeting on October 10, 2016, which in the absence of Peter Byvoets was chaired by Councilwoman Neulieb, a Long Beach resident’s letter was read into the record. That letter follows:
October 7, 2016
Mr. Bill DeFuniak
Town of Long Beach
Dear Mr. DeFuniak:
We would like to file an official complaint about the conduct of town council member Jane Neulieb. I am requesting this letter be put in her file and read at the town board meeting on Monday, October 10, 2016.
We attended the Police Commission Meeting, on Oct 5, 2016, in the town hall meeting room at 8:30 a.m. During the meeting Mrs. Neulieb did nothing but berate our police department. She is extremely biased against the police department. She tried to get a second, to a motion to suspend two officers. The entire meeting she was rude and insolent to most of the attendees including her fellow board member Barbara Morgan. There was no agenda just a constant crude and vindictive rambling from Mrs. Neulieb.
When it was time for public comment she was defensive, condescending and angry that not everyone agreed with her opinion. At this public meeting, for all to see and hear she stated addressing me, “Missy, you are not here about the police department but you are part of a group that is obstructing the progress of Long Beach. You have been doing this since you lost the election. You know this, I know this, it is true and everyone in Long Beach knows it is true. You are here to obstruct all of the good things we are trying to do!”
As an elected official she has no right to give her opinion of my intentions. She is verbally abusive and aggressive to everyone who does not agree with her. “Another member of the audience was complimenting the police department on their quick responses. This person indicated she was extremely grateful to the department for the handling of a situation in her neighborhood. Mrs. Neulieb implied she was stupid.
Greg tried to make a point that her behavior was arrogant, disrespectful, condescending and she was acting as if she was superior. She started; “I am superior to this group!” Mrs. Neulieb is an elected official of this town. She needs to treat people with respect. We will not have her slander, disrespect and belittle us at a public meeting.
Mrs. Neulieb needs to be removed from office. It is apparent she is incapable of controlling her emotions and sustaining a rational thought process during a public meeting.
Mrs. Neulieb was not to be denied, however. First she had her husband make a statement broadcasting the very things for which she was being criticized, talking about the police officers and about the Chief, for which latter attack there were no factual underpinnings. Then Neulieb herself made remarks calling the allegations in the residents’ letter total “lies”. She went on to comment how dispiriting it was to have to constantly fight lies. Well, no kidding Jane!
She went on and on, ignoring one resident who said “There’s a tape!” Indeed the Police Commission Meeting was recorded, but the quality of the recording was so bad as to make it virtually incapable of being understood, but there are two things to be hopeful about. First, efforts are being made to “clean up” the audio so that it can be understood. Second, Councilman Nick Meyer said that not everyone agreed with Mrs. Neulieb’s position. That’s refreshing!
The most disturbing thing about Jane Neulieb’s conduct at the Police Commission Meeting, and indeed at many public meetings, is not only her crudeness, rudeness, incivility, and unwillingness to listen to other points of view, it is the fact that this was not a one time thing. She does things like this routinely. She did it in her first term, telling residents to “Sit down and shut-up”, or constantly using her position as a council member to accuse fellow council members of making “secret deals” or “under the table deals”. She is concerned about her own Constitutional Rights but not with anybody else’s. As a citizen she certainly has a right to say almost anything, but as a public servant she ought to be concerned about the discharge of her public duties and the welfare of her town. A public airing of her opinions does not accomplish this. She should not be so worried about whether she could, but rather whether she should. There is a Federal Civil Rights Suit pending. There is a good possibility that the Plaintiff’s attorneys will seize upon her comments and attempt to use them against the Town she represents.
She does not recognize that as a member of a larger board, she has no individual power, but only that vested in her as a member of a larger entity when it acts as a body. She sees her own views as superior and herself as an unaccountable autocrat.
At the October 10th Town Meeting, the board members again defended their refusal to release un-redacted copies of the Town’s Attorney Fee Statements using Attorney-Client Privilege as a pretext. The rationale as stated by two board members at this very meeting is that the revelation of the complete text of the bills might reveal litigation plans, etc., endangering the Town’s position on the lawsuits in which it is involved. Putting aside the fact that Attorney-Client privilege does not cover what “might” be revealed, but only confidential communications between lawyer and client, this argument by the board is itself refuted by Neulieb’s conduct with the police officers, which also might be used to injure the town. It appears that our board is inconsistent, at least when it comes to Ms. Jane’s position.
To say she is a loose cannon is understating it a lot.