Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

County’s anti-nudity resolution challenged

December 5, 2001

Attorneys for a former Leavenworth County commissioner are hoping to convince a judge that a county resolution against public nudity is unconstitutional.

Their arguments come in a criminal case against former commissioner Wayne Eldridge, who faces misdemeanor charges of aiding and abetting public nudity, which is a violation of the county resolution; as well as promoting prostitution and promoting obscenity.

The charges stem from Eldridge's operation of Whispers, a private club near Basehor that features female dancers.

During a hearing last week before Leavenworth County District Judge Frederick Stewart, Eldridge's attorneys said the county commission had rushed to adopt the anti-nudity resolution in August 2000. Much of the testimony in the hearing centered on the commission meeting when the resolution received unanimous approval.

The judge asked to review a transcript of that meeting, and he delayed ruling on Eldridge's motion to dismiss charges until 10 a.m. Dec. 19.

"It would be helpful to me to know what was said," Stewart said.

During last week's hearing, Eldridge's attorneys said the commission which Eldridge chaired at the time was interested in prohibiting nude dancing. They said the commission was not concerned about other problems from businesses that allow nude dancing, such as increases in illegal drug use or other crimes or decreases in property values.

"Clearly, the resolution is targeted and specifically drafted to curtail expression," said attorney Scott Troy of Tulsa, Okla.

Eldridge testified that commissioners only discussed the resolution for 15 to 20 minutes before adopting it.

"This was thrown before us," he said. "I had not read it, didn't know what I was signing."

He said he relied on advice from Leavenworth County Counselor David Van Parys, who drafted the resolution.

"He told me there were flaws in it and he had to write it in such a rush that he wrote it the morning of that meeting," Eldridge said of Van Parys.

Van Parys said he patterned the resolution after an Erie, Pa., ordinance. He disputed he had said the resolution was flawed.

"Questions were raised numerous times: Would it stand up to legal challenge," Van Parys said. He said he told commissioners the county resolution could be targeted for a legal test, even at the Supreme Court level. He testified that he told commissioners: "You may get the chance as a commission to see if it will uphold this one."

Don Navinsky, who now chairs the commission, testified that he requested the resolution be drafted, after he'd heard rumors that Eldridge was planning to open a juice bar and that another juice bar might be planned elsewhere in the county.

In addition, he said, the commission did discuss problems with gentlemen's clubs. And Leavenworth Police Chief Lee Doehring told commissioners about calls police had received about fights at a club in the city, Navinsky said.

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