Update and More on Green Delaware Activist Arrest Story
inauguration bash was a bust for lobbyist --
[Note: This column, unlike a previous News Journal story, reflects what happened. I would only add that I was waved into my seat in the House of Representatives by it's Sergeant At Arms.]
Gov. Ruth Ann Minner's honeymoon didn't last long. Her inauguration parties had hardly begun when Capitol Police removed an environmental activist from the state House of Representatives and arrested him.
Alan Muller of Green Delaware, who's also a registered lobbyist and publishes a newsletter for the group, said he was in Dover on Tuesday because "I figured I'd do a story about how the inauguration was totally paid for by corporate fat cats -- MBNA, AstraZeneca, the people proomoting Odessa National."
Muller, in case you couldn't tell, is not much of a glad-hander. While bending officials' ears, he frequently steps on their toes. But it's hard to avoid thinking police might have overreacted to what he did Tuesday.
His problems began when he wandered into the Public Archives Building, where a private reception for Minner was taking place.
"A plainclothes cop walked up to me and asked if I had an invitation," Muller said. "There was no sign saying it was a private event, and it's a public building, so I asked if he could please tell me who was holding the event. He didn't want to give me any of that."
Muller said he went to Legislative Hall, then back to Archives, looking unsuccessfully for someone who could give him information about the reception.
He said he was back in Legislative Hall, in the House chamber, when Capitol Police took him outside and told him they would leave him alone as long as he did nothing improper.
Chief William Jopp said Muller was told that those seats were for invited
guests only. Jopp acknowledged that lobbyists often sit there -- they apparently
have no trouble landing invitations from lawmakers -- and that, though
guests' names are supposed to be on a printed
At any rate,
when Muller returned to the House floor to a row of chairs along the
"I've sat there hundreds of times," Muller said. "But he told me if I didn't move I'd be arrested. By that point I'd had enough. I said if you're going to arrest me for sitting in a public seat in the House of Representatives, you'll have to do that." They did.
Several hours later Muller appeared before Common Pleas Justice Agnes Pennella, who granted bail but told him to stay out of Legislative Hall and have no contact with Minner.
"I pointed out I was a lobbyist and that her conditions would prevent my organization from functioning," Muller said, "but she didn't want to hear any of that."
Jopp said asking for such restrictions is standard procedure, and that they'll probably be lifted when he appears in court on charges of disorderly conduct and related minor offenses in a couple of weeks.
Minner spokesman Gregory Patterson, though careful not to second-guess the Capitol Police, allowed that "it was a day and situation where there was a heightened state of concern and security."
If she didn't know it before, Minner must be realizing that a lieutenant governor and governor are separated not just by one heartbeat, but by a million headaches.
Al Mascitti's opinion column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach Al at 324-2866 or send an e-mail.
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