By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw
WARSAW — An ordinance approved in August that prohibited cell phones from the entire Kosciusko County Justice building was revised Tuesday after a local resident objected.
The county commissioners approved new security measures in August that aimed to prohibit deadly weapons and cell phones — as well as other items — in the Justice Building.
But Matt Banta, of Warsaw, objected to the ordinance and still was not happy with the revised version concerning cameras on the second floor that was approved on Tuesday.
Trying to limit firearms and phones is an attempt to provide better security for the courtrooms which are on the second floor.
Banta told the commissioners he doesn’t expect to ever need to be on the second floor, but if he was there in regards to somebody else, he should be allowed to sit in the lobby with a phone while waiting.
The commissioners indicated they looked for a specific area on the second floor for that purpose but were unsuccessful. Commissioner Bob Conley suggested he could sit on the first floor and use a phone, but Banta found that unsatisfactory.
He made the argument on Constitutional grounds.
Banta said he understands the reason for the ban in courtrooms.
“Judges should deal with behavior on a case-by-case basis, but if you deny the public access to their own property in a place they are allowed to be in public, that’s a Fourth Amendment violation and you’re looking for a lawsuit,” Banta told the commissioners.
Afterward, Banta admitted he found some satisfaction in the revised policy.
“Absolutely, they did what’s right. You’re in a public building. You’re allowed to record. It’s a First Amendment right,” Banta said.
After addressing the commissioners, the three-member panel had little to say other than to thank Banta for his input and that they respect his opinion.
The commissioners also agreed to reduce the penalty for possession of a mobile phone on the second floor from a fine of $2,500 to a fine of up to $100 as well as a $250 fine for subsequent violations.
County Attorney Ed Ormsby presented the revised plan.