It was, at the same time, one of the most courageous things the Ole Seagull has ever seen and one of the saddest. It was courageous, as a trembling, terrified recovering victim of intense physical abuse entered the Branson Municipal Court and defended herself against a different kind of abuse, the city’s abusive use of “a corrupt practice or custom.” It was sad because she was put in the position to have to defend herself in the first place.
Without a lawyer and with the odds against her, Annette Burnette took on the “Branson Abuse Team (BAT)” composed of City Attorney William Duston and his faithful cohort Carl Garrett, Branson’s supervisor of licensing and tax compliance. A few weeks ago the Ole Seagull described the case of a U.S. Marine Veteran who was cited with a violation of the Branson Municipal Code because he was the senior employee present and his employer didn’t have the proper city business license. Under Section 1-11 of the Branson Municipal Code, such a violation is a misdemeanor and the penalty can be a fine of up to $500 or 90 days in jail or both.
In that case, BAT won as the Veteran gave up, went in, and pled guilty saying, “I went in and paid the $90.00 fine rather than sit all day to see the judge. I had to sign a plea of guilty to do so. I dropped off a copy of the guilty plea at the office downtown in case you wanted to see what they make an old Marine go through in this town, just for wanting to have a part time job.”
In Burnette’s case the ticket issued by Garrett on June 28 for the alleged failure of “Cellitt, LLC, DBA Harley’s…” to have the proper business license is even more egregious. The ticket was issued to a woman who was not physically on the business premises allegedly lacking the license, a restaurant where “Chesters” was formerly located, but in the office of the motel attached to the building and in spite of the fact that Burnette and two other people, one of them the Hotel Manager, told Garrett that she did not work for the restaurant and had nothing to do with its operation.
“Come on Seagull, I was at the trial, I heard Garrett testify under oath that the people in the office identified Burnette as having a management responsibility for the restaurant.” “Evidently, you missed the part where Burnette put the two people on the stand who were there in the office. They not only testified that they did not say that but that they told Garrett that Burnette had nothing to do with the operation of the restaurant. Burnette herself went on the stand and testified as to the same thing.”
“Well, I might have been in the Men’s Room and missed that, but if that’s the case then it’s clear that either Garrett or the other four are not telling the truth. If someone doesn’t tell the truth under oath isn’t that perjury?” “Well if the “Law and Order” TV series is right that would appear to be the case, but who knows.”
“Come on Seagull, what do you know?” “Oh not much except that if he was approached by Carl Garrett, in any official capacity, he would ask that the transaction be recorded so that there would be no doubt about what was said.
“But wait, didn’t the Board of Aldermen indicate that they didn’t want employee’s charged under that ordinance anymore? “Yes, but it should be pointed out that this ticket was issued prior to the board establishing the above policy.” That said however, it is absolutely ludicrous that Dustin, after knowing what the policy was, would show such a lack of common sense and compassion and put Burnette, or anyone else, through the abuse of a prosecution under these circumstances.
“Is that all you have say about city attorney Duston’s involvement in this case?” “Oh no, his actions deserve a whole column.”
In an August 2008, during the earlier stages of her ongoing struggle back from the effects of being physically abused, the “Danville Advocate Messenger,” Danville, KY featured Annette in a story. She said, “I’m no longer afraid to say ‘no.’ I’ve learned not to be a doormat for anyone. That’s the most important thing, really. It’s not attractive to be a victim.”
Win, lose or draw her courageous performance in handling BAT’s attack against her during her trial showed that she’s certainly not going to be the city’s doormat and a level of class and professionalism that Duston, Garrett and those responsible for their actions should aspire to.