Commissioner, village explain permits for 7419 Warren (see sidebar)
A running feud between a Forest Park council member and an outspoken critic of local government has escalated and is now the subject of a police report.
According to a complaint filed with the police department on Dec. 1, Commissioner Mark Hosty is accusing Steven Backman of trespassing, despite repeated requests from the commissioner that Backman steer clear. Hosty’s claim is based on a series of photos Backman allegedly snapped of the commissioner’s home and posted online. According to text that appears with the photographs, Backman was allegedly trying to out Hosty for skirting local building and zoning codes.
Hosty is renovating a single-family home at 7419 Warren and is in the process of relocating his family there. Backman lives just a few houses down at 7452 Warren.
“Mr. Backman has offended me so many times; I don’t care for him,” Hosty said of their relationship.
Backman is a co-founder of Citizens United in Forest Park, a watchdog organization incorporated in 2004. For years, he has irked elected officials and others at village hall with what Backman has described as an earnest attempt to bring accountability and transparency to local government. Several council members, including Hosty and Mayor Anthony Calderone, have criticized Backman as a disingenuous, self-appointed hall monitor.
Police Chief Jim Ryan said a detective in the department took the commissioner’s complaint and made several attempts to get Backman’s side of the story. Backman responded that he would speak with the detective on the condition that Ryan sit-in on the meeting. According to Ryan, he contacted Backman three times to schedule the meeting before receiving an e-mail that any communication should be directed through Backman’s attorney.
“I basically never heard back from him,” Ryan said.
On Dec. 10, police issued a citation to Backman alleging that he trespassed onto Hosty’s property in October to take the photos. With only one side of the story, said Ryan, the police will let a judge sort out the details. Backman is scheduled to appear in the basement of village hall on Feb. 4, 2009, for an administrative hearing on the ordinance violation.
Backman confirmed that he has hired an attorney and said he intends to defend himself against the accusation. He acknowledged taking the photos but said he never stepped onto Hosty’s property. Several public rights-of-way surround the home, said Backman, and he took the photos without trespassing.
“It’s the same thing I’ve been doing for years,” Backman said.
Documenting construction work in Forest Park is nothing new for Backman, and he regularly photographs homes and businesses that he suspects are not in compliance with local ordinances. He and his wife, Gloria, did not contact village hall with their suspicions about Hosty’s property, Backman said.
“We don’t do that anymore,” Backman said. “Our decision here was to get it out and let the public know what was going on. If we had just notified Boyle they probably have some internal mechanism to bring it all up to snuff.”