Lawrence mayor’s home vandalized during City Commission meeting; police investigating

photo by: City of Lawrence

The Lawrence City Commission is pictured during its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, at City Hall.

In the midst of an at times tense discussion about the treatment of homeless people and funding for the local shelter at City Hall, someone threw a rock through a window of the mayor’s house.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission heard more than an hour of public comment, which became heated and accusatory at times, about issues facing homeless people in Lawrence and a funding request from the Lawrence Community Shelter. Police reports indicate the mayor’s home was vandalized while the meeting was in progress.

According to the report, sometime between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday a window was damaged at Mayor Jennifer Ananda’s home, which is only a few blocks from City Hall. Sources have told the Journal-World that a rock was thrown through the window — the report puts the damage at $300 — with a message related to the homeless issue.

Another commissioner feared her house was also being targeted that night.

Though no vandalism ultimately occurred at Commissioner Lisa Larsen’s home, Larsen said that about that time, she was alerted that her dog was outside her house barking aggressively and would not come inside. Larsen said given the timeframe and uncharacteristic behavior from her dog, she thought someone had approached her house as well.

Larsen said that she was frustrated with the situation and that such incivility didn’t help the city solve its problems.

“We are looking for solutions to our city problems,” Larsen said. “And it’s just hard to move forward when we have this type of action toward our fellow commissioners.” She also said that this was not the only incident, but she didn’t want to elaborate on the nature of other incidents.

About a dozen residents spoke to the commission during its meeting Tuesday about the treatment of homeless people and funding for the shelter. Many of the speakers made appeals to the commission, asking that homeless people be treated with dignity and that the city create a more comprehensive approach to addressing the issue. However, a couple of people made more heated comments, calling the commissioners cowards and accusing them of killing people. Police have not confirmed details about the vandalism, including whether the vandal included a message or whether there was evidence that the person attended or spoke at the meeting.

Ultimately, the commission unanimously voted to provide the shelter an additional $31,000 this year. When the commission was creating the city’s 2020 budget last summer, the homeless shelter asked the city to increase its funding from about $200,000 to $504,000. The commission instead approved $296,000 for the shelter, matching the direct funding provided by Douglas County. The shelter, which has long struggled financially and has significantly increased its reliance on local government funding the past five years, decided to reduce its capacity in the face of budget shortfalls. Since then, dozens of homeless people have been sleeping outdoors.

Following vandalism of the mayor’s home, the city removed the city commissioners’ addresses from its website and Lawrence police department logs show that officers have been doing regular nighttime patrols at the homes of current and former city commissioners and the home of City Manager Craig Owens.

Vice Mayor Brad Finkeldei said that what happened Tuesday night was serious and deserved further public discussion.

“It’s a very serious matter that is being investigated by the police, and once that investigation is complete we will need to have a discussion on where we go from here,” Finkeldei said.

Commissioner Courtney Shipley agreed, saying all the commissioners were taking the incident seriously. She said she also assumed it would be discussed once the investigation is complete or at such time that the mayor would like to discuss it. Commissioner Stuart Boley did not immediately return a phone call from the Journal-World Friday afternoon.

The police investigation into the vandalism is ongoing, and Ananda, who has two sons, said that at this point her family would like to maintain as much privacy as possible until they are ready to make a public statement.

Police spokesman Patrick Compton said that no one has been arrested in connection with the incident and that police don’t want to elaborate on the crime at this time. He said if anyone has any information about the incident, they should call Lawrence police at 832-7509 or Crime Stoppers of Lawrence and Douglas County at 843-TIPS. Tips to Crime Stoppers can be anonymous.

City spokesman Porter Arneill said that the city is not commenting at this time and also encouraged anyone with information about the crime to contact police.


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