A threatening email to city commissioners has led to at least a temporary increase in security at Lawrence City Hall.
Commissioner Bob Schumm confirmed that multiple commissioners received an email from a community member angry about the proposed rental licensing and inspection program.
"We get called names certainly from time to time, but when they start talking about coming to my property, and when they couple that with the idea that there is a gun somewhere, that is where it crosses the line," Schumm said.
Shortly after the email was received — about three weeks ago — the commission's weekly Tuesday evening meetings had obvious signs of increased security. Most noticeable is that meetings now have two uniformed police officers present. Over the past several years, the practice has been for one uniformed police officer to attend.
Schumm said he had asked for the additional police presence only at meetings where the rental licensing program was scheduled to be discussed. But City Manager David Corliss said he turned the matter over to the Police Department, and it recommended the security plan that is now in place.
"I trust their judgement on the level of visible and nonvisible police presence at any meeting," Corliss said.
Both Corliss and Schumm said the threatening email and the additional security shouldn't dissuade the public from attending commission meetings.
"I think we're being proactive right now by providing an abundance of security so the public doesn't have to worry about attending our meetings," Schumm said.
It wasn't clear how long the increased security measures would continue. The City Commission is scheduled to take a key vote on the rental licensing and inspection program at its Feb. 4 meeting.
"In my opinion, this isn't going to be the new norm, unless something else comes up," said Mayor Mike Dever. "We're well served by the one officer that we normally have in that position."
Corliss said he would defer to the judgment of the Police Department on how much police presence is needed at the meetings.
"I know the commission wants to have an open atmosphere at meetings," Corliss said. "That is important, but we do have to be cognizant of potential issues."
Corliss said there is an increased cost involved with having multiple officers at a meeting, but he said those hadn't yet been determined. He said the costs are dependent upon whether the department pulls an officer off regular patrol duty or adds an officer to the shift.
Schumm said a police detective has been successful in contacting the person who sent the email. Schumm said no charges have been filed against the individual, and Schumm said he personally was not interested in seeing charges brought against the man.
The proposed rental licensing and inspection program has been controversial, in part, because it will require city inspectors to enter people's living quarters to conduct safety and codes inspections. As currently proposed, inspectors will enter a sampling of rental units across the city to conduct the inspections.