Joel Pile Is a Petty Tyrant and an Overly Sensitive Ass.

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

I feel comfortable writing that, because I don’t plan to visit Valley Center, Kansas any time soon.

He was cuffed, fingerprinted, booked into the Sedgwick County Jail and released on bail. His crime: putting up a yard sign critical of the Valley Center city administrator.

Jarrod West is out on bail, facing criminal defamation charges for a sign he put in his front yard about persistent flooding issues he says cost him over $50,000 over the last three years. The sign says, “Dear Valley Center, I did not buy Lake Front Property! Fix this problem. This is what I pay taxes for. PS. Joel this means you!” Joel being City Administrator Joel Pile…

When City Administrator Joel Pile saw the sign, West was arrested and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail on a criminal charge of defamation. He spent the night behind bars and is now free on a $10,000 bond.

“I think it’s an ego trip for somebody and I think somebody’s abusing their ego and authority,” said West.

“We’ve advised him of the process to come through the City Council,” Pile told KSN.

Pile stands behind the criminal charge, saying West has acted with malice in criticizing him and he’s been told any action to alleviate flooding has to come from the City Council.

“People and individuals have an absolute right to free speech,” said Pile. “But however, when they do it and continue to do it within the realms of what we believe is actual malice for the purpose of holding me accountable to the public we believe that crosses a line.”

Pile says the city will drop the charges against West if he stops blaming Pile for the flooding issues on his property.

How kind of Mr. Pile. Never criticize him, and you won’t have to worry about him having you arrested.

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83 Responses to “Joel Pile Is a Petty Tyrant and an Overly Sensitive Ass.”

  1. #1 |  Will | 

    Pile, Joel (316) 755-7310


  2. #2 |  Larry Signor | 

    $ 10,000.00 bond? For a misdemeanor? Just un-fucking-believable. Is Kansas still part of The United States? Fuck the border, fence Kansas in.

  3. #3 |  Cynical in CA | 

    SJE, to be fair I’m not in John Jenkins’ mind, but I didn’t read that last sentence in #43 as directed to you. Knowing him I believe he directed it at Joel Pile. It still is an ad hominem, but not within the context of the discussion between you two. In what I believe is its intended context, it is rather appropriate.

    On that note, John, the point has been raised that Pile may have no authority to solve the complainant’s problem. If that is the case, then would Pile have a reasonable case that he has been misidentified as the responsible party? That in no way justifies the resort to charging the complainant/defendant (violent solution where non-violent would have sufficed), but I’m curious if as a lawyer you think he might have legal grounds to proceed?

  4. #4 |  Andrew S. | 

    Looks like the charges were dropped, or were supposed to be. The article is a week old though.

    Also, the article (small local paper, likely a bit intertwined with the local government) seems to go out of its way to talk about how Mr. West is a Very Bad Person ™

  5. #5 |  John Jenkins | 

    @SJE: If I were directing an ad hominem at you, you’d know. Pile is the ignorant prick in question. I think his actions here fully justify his being called an ignorant prick. First, he’s clearly being a prick by having the guy arrested for something so trivial (whether protected speech or not). Second, he is clearly ignorant of First Amendment law and, for someone in his position, that is inexcusable (you’d hope he at least consulted an attorney, but in my experience people act before consulting).

    Finally, it is not an ad hominem. The ad hominem fallacy is when you counter an argument by denigrating the person making it. Joel Pile is not making any argument to which I am responding. It’s clearly, plainly and solely an insult, and that is the spirit in which it is intended.

    I don’t think I suggested that the guy who posted the sign do or say anything, and re-reading my post, I don’t see how it could be interpreted that way. I read what the original sign said and came up with how I would interpret it. Maybe it could be interpreted otherwise, but I am describing my interpretation of past behavior, so I don’t see how that costs this guy any money.

    Finally, why would I ask a Kansas lawyer to take anyone to school on a message board on an issue of First Amendment law? The Kansas part is because I am not licensed there (though one of my friends is and did offer to be local counsel for me if I wanted to try to take the case), and it refers to some lawyer licensed in Kansas taking up this case (before I noticed that the ACLU agreed to become involved).

    Finally, criticism of Pile or other members of government of his visibility, irrespective of whether they are elected (and Pile probably serves at the pleasure of an elected board) is equally protected. For low-level functionaries, you run into the public/private wall, but for a senior executive of a governmental unit, he is clearly a public person (note that the statute does not make any distinction here, applying the correct constitutional rule that actual malice is required, period, for this statute to be constitutional (it might still be void for vagueness, or unconstitutionally overbroad).

    I think any tort claims that Pile might make and any criminal charge are constitutionally defective.

    @Cynical in CA: I don’t think so. Fundamentally, defamation has to be a false statement of fact (e.g., “I think that guy’s an asshole,” is an opinion and not actionable). In this context, the defamation would have to be knowingly or recklessly false (because of NYT v. Sullivan and the cases that followed). All the guy is really saying is “Joel Pile, I want you to fix this.”

    I guess it could be interpreted as “This is Joel Pile’s fault,” but I think that’s stretching it a bit. Joel Pile is the city administrator (in charge of the executive functions of the city), so it might not be within his direct power, but he probably has some influence. I would interpret these statements as a request that Pile use his influence to help fix the problem, so I don’t see how that is actionable. Were I a prosecutor, I would not pursue a charge of criminal libel. (You also have the question of whether he knew that Pile couldn’t do anything, assuming that’s even true, when he put up the sign.)

    I just don’t see how all the elements of the criminal libel statute could be satisfied on these facts.

  6. #6 |  buzz | 

    I live in Wichita, so I have heard of Valley Center. I first heard this on a local morning radio show. So far I have seen no real outrage from local media including the Wichita paper. None of them seem to see any inherent danger in arresting people who complain about politicians.

  7. #7 |  acougara | 

    Looks like the charges were dropped, or were supposed to be.

  8. #8 |  SJE | 

    John: thanks for the clarification, I thought the attack was on me.

  9. #9 |  Ace_of_Spades | 

    I think the cops misread the arrest warrant. Pile was the suspect, not the complainant. Defecation was the charge, not defamation.

    Sometimes ad hominem attacks are justified – this guy is a piece of shit. What else is there to say about him?

  10. #10 |  Highway | 

    A city administrator might not have any direct authority to authorize work, but he sure as heck could go over to the Department of Public Works or whatever relevant agency and say “People are complaining about this, investigate it, get out there and talk to them, and fix it the best way you can. And if you can’t fix it, we need to find out why not and what will get it fixed.”

    Pile’s throwing up his hands and saying ‘I can’t do anything about it’ is a pathetic cop out. You can’t pick up the phone? You’re the city administrator! What is it that you do? It should be exactly petty stuff like this. Exert yourself. Make a 10-minute phone call.

    What a loser.

  11. #11 |  Joe | 

    Do not settle. Fight this one. I am sure there are attorneys in Kansas that will take this for free.

  12. #12 |  Cappy | 

    To quote from the Valley Center site:

    Joel Pile
    City Administrator
    Responsibilities: This position is responsible for planning, coordinating, and supervising the operation of the City departments. Supervising subordinate personnel and enforcing all municipal laws and ordinances is required.

    If you scroll down along City Departments, you’ll observe “Community Development” which is responsible Floodplains. You’ll also observe “Public Works”. If you click on Public Works you’ll have the pleasure of reading this:

    The Public Works Superintendent and employees implement projects as directed by the City Council and City Administrator. The Public Works Department is also responsible for:

    So, um, you see, the Schitty Administrator can make the decision to fix Mr. West’s rather expensive problem, since it also appears that it’s city land that is causing the problem.

    Perhaps Mr. West can claim this part of the city as “blight” and take it over through eminent domain or sumpin. Learn Mr. Pile a lesson.

    One other noter, Mr. Pile is also in charge of the Municipal Court. Telling.

  13. #13 |  Windy | 

    My email to the Pile went as follows:
    “Because you absolutely deserve it:

  14. #14 |  AndrĂ© | 

    The upshot is now that anybody who takes ten seconds to google him sees the first couple hits with him described as “a petty tyrant and an overly sensitive ass”. Not that I’m necessarily in the habit of googling every person I meet, but potential dates or hires, sure.

  15. #15 |  BSK | 

    He didn’t even identify Pile by his first name. He simply said “Joel”. Pile would only take offense to that if he knew he were guilty of something.

  16. #16 |  BSK | 

    That should say “last name”.

  17. #17 |  paranoiastrksdp | 


    Tyrants need to be taken out at the local level. At the very least this guy needs a generous helping of shame heaped upon him followed by a move to vote his ass out of office and return him to the humble life of the private sector.

  18. #18 |  paranoiastrksdp | 

    Wait a second….
    This guy isn’t even an *elected* official?

  19. #19 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    I was on a citizen’s task force in my local town to address drainage, sewer and street projects. We reviewed all known city issues as well as citizen compaints. We worked with the city manager, mayor, and citizens. We made our recommendations to council. They voted on it (only slight alterations of no consequence). They then drafted bond packages (no tax rate increase as we were paying off other bonds) and was put to voters, which they passed overwhelmingly.

    I don’t understand why this little haven of idiocy couldn’t just do the same.

  20. #20 |  kino | 

    unfrigginbelievable , DUI charges against the police officer who crashed into the mortorcyclists have been dropped WTF!!!!!!!!!

  21. #21 |  Robert | 

    “$ 10,000.00 bond? For a misdemeanor? Just un-fucking-believable. Is Kansas still part of The United States? Fuck the border, fence Kansas in.”

    In Asheville NC, we recently had a person facing $100,000 bail for a misdemeanor, and there’s a good chance they will be found not guiilty in court after it’s all over.

  22. #22 |  SJE | 

    #71: its not so much that its for a misdemeanor, but for LIBEL of a governement official by a home owner. A bond makes sense for some shady dirtbag who might skip town. But for libel?

  23. #23 |  John Jenkins | 

    Since the guy does have another pending charge for which he is out on bond already, a $10,000 bond doesn’t surprise me that much. If the charges are dropped, then the bond will be exonerated.

  24. #24 |  SJE | 

    Case will be dropped. Also, while Joel is an ass, West was not jailed for libel but for assault, according to the local rag.

  25. #25 |  Sean L. | 

    “I’m think I’m going to throw up. I’m think I’m going to throw up on you, Joel.”

  26. #26 |  Highway | 

    People are mentioning the bond, and I am thinking more and more that these excessive bonds are being levied for the favor of the local bail bonds industry. A high bond gets them a bigger revenue, especially from these extremely low risk people. There were some good pieces on NPR about 6 months ago about this shady relationship for bonds.

  27. #27 |  John Jenkins | 

    @SJE: Assault is the prior charge. He was arrested for the criminal defamation charge as well.

  28. #28 |  scottp | 

    The article SJE provided a link to says West was not arrested for the criminal defamation charge.
    The article says he was served a summons to appear for the defamation charge while he was in jail for the assault charge.

  29. #29 |  scottp | 

    From the article:
    Sheriff’s and police records show that West was neither arrested nor booked into jail on the criminal defamation charge. He was issued a criminal complaint and notice to appear in court while he was in jail on the criminal threat and battery warrant.

  30. #30 |  John Jenkins | 

    From the original article:

    “He was cuffed, fingerprinted, booked into the Sedgwick County Jail and released on bail. His crime: putting up a yard sign critical of the Valley Center city administrator”

    In any event, he was definitely legally “arrested” when he was issued the citation (read the fine print on a ticket some time).

  31. #31 |  Kevin Carson | 

    Wait a minute–

    This fucking SHITBAG can’t do anything about the flooding because as administrator he has no authority to issue work orders–but he has the authority to call on the police force as his own personal renta-cops to arrest a political enemy?

  32. #32 |  Kevin Carson | 

    My email:

    Let me get this straight, Mr. Pile…

    …You don’t have the authority, as an administrator, to issue work orders — but you do have the authority to use the police force as your own personal rentacops and send them to arrest a political enemy?

    This story has gone viral, and has done more to make you look like an idiot — nationwide — than anything a thousand Jarrod Wests could have done. What’s more, it’s made your community the laughingstock of the nation. The people of Valley Center should have YOU arrested for defamation, you clown.

    You really should Google “Streisand Effect.” Thanks to your own stupidity, you’re about to learn just what it’s all about.

    Kevin Carson

  33. #33 |  Joel Pile is a petty tyrant and an overly sensitive ass | Hammer of Truth | 

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