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Church workers report harassment



Published: Mon, July 9, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

A couple has taken its plight to the city prosecutor, and is going higher.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

NILES — James and Mary Kauffman say they’ve had it.

The Kauffmans, of Smith Street, have been spending the past six or seven years keeping up the outside of Disciple of Jesus Fellowship Church on Williams Street, keeping it tidy.

They have been mowing the lawn and planting bushes and flowers.

Every evening, they walk from their home to the nearby church to turn on the lights. In the morning, they return to turn them off.

“The church lets us do it,” said 51-year-old Mary Kauffman.

Last Thursday night, they had to call the police again about a family that lives near the church.

It was about 7:30 p.m. when they walked down to the church to turn on the lights. As her husband opened the door and looked back, one of four or five people across the street delivered to him the ultimate digital insult.

One of them then dropped his pants to expose his back side, they told police.

The Kauffmans have taken their concerns to city Prosecutor Terry Swauger, who said that flipping off someone isn’t a crime.

Attention of the law

“It’s poor taste, but not threatening. It’s rude,” Swauger noted.

As for mooning, Swauger said he’s going to have to research the law to determine if it falls under the category of indecent exposure or disturbing the peace.

In the meantime, Swauger said he suggested to the Kauffmans that they consider obtaining a civil protection order from Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. The Kauffmans said they are going to get copies of about 25 police reports they have filed in the past two years in seeking court protection.

“We’re afraid for our safety,” Mrs. Kauffman asserted. “They keep harassing us.”

The Kauffmans, however, have been known to draw attention to themselves.

They painted their home red and Kauffman became know around the city as “Big Red,” as he drove a red truck.

It’s the unusual color of their house that resulted in city council’s passing legislation in September 2005 that essentially stops homeowners from painting their houses unusual colors. The addition to the housing code outlines that the color of paint must be compatible in color, texture and design with similar dwellings in the immediate neighborhood.

Involvement with the church

The couple got involved in the former Lord’s Chapel because it needed work and because Kauffman, 62, is a retired tree cutter who likes to take on projects.

Kauffman is a religious man, crediting God with bringing landscaping materials down to his price range so he and his wife can purchase them for the church.

So far this year, he figures they have spent about $800 on materials from plants and bushes to gravel.

Kauffman said he has shown restraint to those who harass them. “We tend to try to ignore them.”

“Something is going to happen,” Kauffman added, noting he carries a baseball bat for self-protection. “We have the right to work in peace,” he added.

Police Chief Bruce Simeone said he hopes nothing serious comes of it. He added that when the Kauffmans call police, his officers get there too late to see anything illegal happening.

Of the Kauffmans, Simeone said, “They’re very nice people. They’ll do anything for you.”

yovich@vindy.com


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