Open government: City of Ann Arbor accounts receivable still shows bills for 1996 Klan rally on City Hall
In 1996 the Ku Klux Klan clashed with Marxist protestors at Ann Arbor City Hall. City Administrator Neil Berlin responded by sending both organizations bills for the costs of the police work needed to protect them, nearly $35,000 to each organization. The National Women's Rights Organizing Committee (NWROC), a front for the Detroit based Revolutionary Workers League, responded with angry public comments at City Council, promising never to pay the bill. The Church of the American Knights of the KKK threatened a lawsuit in response.
Two years later in 1998, the two groups clashed again at City Hall; the resulting melee injured five people.
The City of Ann Arbor released its new city data catalog yesterday; it includes an accounts receivable aging report, showing which transactions on the city ledger have not been collected. The report that is currently available shows $311,949.88 in bills that are older than one year old. The oldest of those transactions is dated July 26, 1996, receivables ARINVS81424 and ARINVS81425, corresponding to bills sent to the "AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK" and to the "NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM." They are still on the books, a reminder of polarizing conflicts of that era.
After the jump, links to the original sources that I've been able to find for this incident.
1996 Klan Rally
Two news accounts describe the reaction of organizations to being billed for the police presence at their event. In a 1996 Michigan Daily story, Berlin said:
"I ultimately made the decision after consulting with the city attorney," and "(The billing) has nothing to do with what (the groups) said. It has to do with actions."Â
A subsequent 1999 AP story notes:
Â "Following a 1996 Klan rally in Ann Arbor, Mich., the city billed both the Klan and an anti-Klan organization $72,000 for the cost of security. The city never started collection action but hasn't ruled out the possibility, city attorney Abigail Elias said."
1998 Klan Rally
The Klan rallied again in 1998, and was faced with even bolder opposition. The New York Times reported that fiveÂ people were injured in the protest. The next day, Mayor Ingrid Shelton praised those who were involved in non-violent protest at a City Council budget meeting; the meeting minutes say:Â
"Mayor Sheldon acknowledge the hard work of City staff during Saturday's KKK rally and anti-Klan rally, and expressed appreciation to those who organized the unity rally at Wheeler Park and to members of the community who demonstrated their opposition to the Klan in a peaceful manner."
Larry Kestenbaum, the current county clerk, was at the event; his essay Ann Arbor City Hall, May 9, 1998 describes his actions as a member of the Peace Team, which stood between protestors and the police in an effort to reduce bloodshed:
"The Ann Arbor News headline was "Planning Pays Off", with smaller headlines about how happy people were about the relative lack of violence and the key role the peacekeepers played. And, right on the front page, above and across the fold, they ran a huge photo of my unidentified back, emblazoned with PEACE TEAM, while a masked fellow in spiked hair is about to punch me."
The city publishes its Aging Reports by Agency; the description of the report runs as follows:
"This dataset contains any open accounts receivable for the City of Ann Arbor and details any customer that may owe the City money for services billed through Accounts Receivable. These services are generally non-tax and non-utility items. The report is organized by Fund and Agency (which are service units of the City). This report is updated monthly. The Accounting Services Unit is part of Financial and Administrative Services Area."
Instead of looking at the report by fund or agency, I sorted the provided spreadsheet by date. Here's a portion of the ledger.
AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 402 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 402 AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 5117.02 AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 20994 AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 7648.86 AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 186.76 AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 60 AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 147.29 AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE KKK ARINVS81424 7/26/96 2128.11 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 5117.01 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 20994 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 7648.85 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 186.75 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 60 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 147.28 NATL WOMEN'S RTS ORGANIZ COMM ARINVS81425 7/26/96 2128.14
What we don't know yet
I'm requesting the following records under FOIA:
* A record of the original invoice sent
* A record of any correspondence sent as an attempt to collect this debt.
* A record of any correspondence, minutes of public meetings, news clippings, or other files associated with the collection of this debt
* The first five pages only of the police report associated with the June 22, 1996 Klan rally
* A copy of the city policy and procedures manual on collections, specificaly that associated with the collection of debts which are one year old or greater
The usual FOIA process takes three calendar weeks, one week for the request plus the customary two week extension.
Edward Vielmetti wonders if you are interested in revolutionary politics. Contact him at 734-330-2465.