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Courts again say the word 'stalking' is going too far in in Porter County labor dispute

A Liberty Township excavating company owner has been ordered by the courts a second time in a little more than a month to remove signs accusing a local union of stalking his family.

VALPARAISO — A Liberty Township excavating company owner, already in a legal dispute over a sign accusing a local union of stalking his family, now faces a related complaint from the state.

The Indiana attorney general's office has filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to have Davis & Sons Excavating remove boulders it has placed outside the business around a mailbox along U.S. 6.

"The boulders are a nuisance ... and pose a serious danger to Indiana motorists, including the risk of property damage, serious injury, or death," according to the motion filed on behalf of the Indiana Department of Transportation.

INDOT says it had the company remove a fence from along the highway in early November and recently was forced to remove several large boulders and concrete barriers from the same location when the owner refused. The items have been placed where union members have picketed the business.

The underlying labor dispute with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 revolves around a sign the company has posted outside its property at 155 W. U.S. 6. The sign reads, "Local 150 stalked my daughter at her school Friday morning on February 23, 2018."

Dick Davis, who operates the excavation business with his son, said the boulders now in question have been in place for a year.

Upon advice from his attorney, he said the boulders were to be removed Thursday.

A hearing is scheduled on the state's motion for 1 p.m. Friday before Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer.

Stalking refers to a criminal act, and use of that word amounts to defamation if someone has not been convicted of the offense, attorney Ken Elwood has said on behalf of the union.

Davis has said he is not taking the sign down.

Elwood said Thursday said he has never seen anyone ignore a court order.

"He's clearly in contempt of court," Elwood said.

When the company was ordered by the courts in January to remove an earlier sign that read "150 business agents are stalking my wife and kids," it complied by replacing the word "stalking" with "bullying," Elwood has said. That version of the sign was not defamation, per se, and would not likely justify a temporary order, he said.

Davis said the dispute with the union has left him feeling as though he no longer lives in America.

"No one has ever treated me this way in 74 years," he said.

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Porter/LaPorte County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Bob is a 23-year veteran of The Times. He covers county government and courts in Porter County, federal courts, police news and regional issues. He also created the Vegan in the Region blog, is an Indiana University grad and lifelong region resident.