Burns incident leads to battery arrest
A fight last week between two Burns men resulted in William Castleberry being charged with battery, but city politics appear to factor large into the altercation.
According to a complaint filed in court May 11, Castleberry “caused physical contact” with Sean Michael Blansett “in a rude, insulting, or angry manner.”
Castleberry was booked into jail Sunday and released less than an hour later on $500 surety bond.
Deputy Landis Goodman, Blansett, and Donald and Mary Jane Strotkamp are listed as witnesses on the complaint. Mary Jane Strotkamp is a city council member.
Allegedly, Castleberry pulled Blansett off a riding mower, and the two ended up in a fistfight on the ground.
Castleberry’s wife, Robyn Basham, was the water and sewer operator for the city of Burns until she was fired last week on the same day as the altercation.
Council member Leah January resigned that night. She said Basham’s firing appeared to have been a setup and she no longer wanted to be part of the council.
January said Basham needed help with time management and instruction, but she disagreed with firing her.
“In my view, it puts the city at risk,” January said.
Strotkamp said Basham’s firing was with reason.
“We have had a lot of trouble with Robyn,” Strotkamp said.
Mayor Mike Hammann declined to say what reasons the council had for firing Basham.
“We didn’t publicly say why,” Hammann said.
City water and sewer are being overseen by a licensed town resident, he said.
Strotkamp said her husband saw the Castleberrys put up a sign Wednesday morning on a lot next to her home.
The sign read, “Shame on you Mary Strotkamp, Mike Hammann, Fritzie Hatfield, Tom Grimwood. Personal agendas and vendettas have no place in Burns politics.”
“They were yelling at us from across the way the other night,” Strotkamp added.
Hammann said he’d also been yelled at by the Castleberrys.
William Castleberry’s brother, Brian, had called for a town meeting Friday evening in the city park.
Strotkamp said she assumed the meeting would be “to get people riled up” and she did not plan to attend.
Hammann said he’d already heard all he wanted to hear at the city council meeting.
“I’m trying to stay above all this,” Hammann said. “We gave him free rein to say whatever he wanted to say at the council meeting. We didn’t set a time limit and we didn’t cut him off.”
Basham said no official reason was given for her firing, but she has in the past been accused of calling in sick too often and irresponsibly using city money.
“I put in a request for all pay records and a letter saying why I was fired,” Basham said. “I am speaking with a lawyer.”
January said she would cooperate with Basham’s lawyer.
One reason for the altercation could have been over Basham’s upcoming firing. Basham said she and her husband repeatedly heard that Blansett had been promised Basham’s job.
She is angry that it appears to her she was fired to promote Blansett. She said she and her husband have helped Blansett, even paying his water bills so his service did not get shut off.
Hammann denied Blansett had been told that.
Basham said deputies repeatedly circled the couple’s home the night of the altercation and her firing.
Basham also said she and her husband used to rent a house from the Strotkamps until they were kicked out and they later were accused of putting rats in the house.
Blansett did not return calls from the Marion County Record.
Council member Fritzie Hatfield declined to comment, saying she wanted to have a better idea about the situation.
Council member Roland Boesker said he was out of town when the incidents took place and had no direct knowledge of what happened.
Council member Tom Grimwood could not be reached.
Last week’s incident was not the first time contention had arisen in Burns. Last year, Basham’s brother-in-law, Brian Castleberry, raised issues about the manner in which city meetings were being held and about Basham’s pay being docked.
Brian Castleberry made repeated complaints that the city was conducting meetings illegally.
Hammann said he thought the recent blow-up tied directly back to the blow-up a year ago.
Basham’s pay was docked after she forgot to clock out at the end of work one day. The money docked from her pay was given to her later after the matter was discussed in a special council meeting conducted under questionable circumstances.
A special meeting for a city of the third class, which Burns is, may be initiated by letters from three council members sent to the mayor prior before the meeting.
During the special meeting, the required letters were composed and signed in an executive session.
A ruckus ensued when the council returned to open session. Then-mayor Ryan Johnson had the police chief clear the room.
Hatfield left the meeting in protest. Hatfield remains on the council.
Brian Castleberry also objected to a Newton resident who owned property with only a garage on it being appointed to city council, and city property being sold to that same council member.