Libertarian Party of West Virginia -- Marion County

Opposition to the Video Camera Ordinance


A chronology of my efforts in opposition to the White Hall Town Council ordinance to mandate video cameras in private businesses.


The initial newspaper report, cover story, "Push on for store cameras: White Hall to seek ordinance following rape".

Government-mandated Video Cameras

After reading today in the paper that Rep. Mike Caputo and White Hall Mayor Jesse Corley were proposing an ordinance to force 24-hour convenience stores to install video cameras, I e-mailed the following letter to the Editor.

Editor of the Fairmont Times West Virginian:

I am concerned that White Hall Mayor Jesse Corley is proposing an ordinance which would mandate that certain area businesses purchase security cameras for their own protection. I think that, as a general rule, we should think twice before we consider allowing the government to force us to place video cameras in our daily lives at our own expense.

While I understand that the recent violence has left us feeling helpless, I am disturbed by the growing number of reactionary government laws that seek to usurp the judgment of free citizens for our own good. As Mayor Corley said, without having to quote him too far out of context, "This could grow into a much bigger thing."

David Wallace Croft
White Hall Resident
Marion County Chair, Libertarian Party of West Virginia


The White Hall Town Council convenes.

A number of reporters are present even though the number at the meeting is fairly small.

The ordinance is read to the public for the first time.

The Town Council and Del. Mike Caputo state how pleased and proud they are to be able to promote this historic legislation in White Hall which will soon become a state law as well.

I read the letter to the Editor that I on the 6th to the Town Council. The reporters perk up.

Orville Wright of the Town Council replies something to the effect that it is such a shame that some people are opposed to the well-being and safety of others. A very cheap shot. I request time to reply.

A back-and-forth debate ensues. In it, I ask George Abel, Town Council Recorder, what I thought would be a rhetorical question as to whether he would support the mandate of video cameras in our homes if social workers thought it would prevent child abuse. He talks for some length about how effective video cameras are about preventing crime but he never answers my question. I am shocked by his lack of an answer to this fundamental queston and I ask him to clarify. He says, "No."

Del. Mike Caputo animates, apparently excited at something I may have said, and speeches at me. See paraphrased quote below from TV report.

The reporters pull me into the back room while the Town Council meeting wraps up.

Television picks it up on two channels; I'm identified properly as the Marion County Libertarian Party Chair in the subtitles.

Del. Mike Caputo is also asked to make a statement but it appears as if he is now reluctant. The reporter pleads and he relents.

Excerpt from the Channel 5 (WDTV) report:

David Croft:
"I believe that security cameras will help deter the frequency and the severity of crime but I object to the government mandating these cameras in our private businesses."

Excerpts from the Channel 12 report:

Steve McCall (reporter):
"Is it public safety or is Big Brother watching your every move?"

David Croft:
"Just how far do we need to legislate security? I mean if we get to the point where we decide to, where the government is going to mandate through the use of fines and the sheriff to enforce it, that we install video cameras everywhere which are then open to inspection by those same sheriffs at any time, I think we are headed toward a bad trend which is becoming more and more feasible as the years go by."

April Kaul (reporter), paraphrasing Del. Mike Caputo:
"If the government has to play Big Brother to ensure public safety, then so be it." His actual quote was something to the effect of safe-guarding minimum wage workers from the greedy business owners and that he would pass the legislation necessary to ensure their protection.


Newspaper cover story: "Libertarians: Camera law 'reactionary'".


To: Theresa Haynes: My thanks for a great report in your cover story "Libertarians: Camera law 'reactionary'". To extend your detailed description of the ordinance, here's four more points that you may consider newsworthy. * The private businesses will have to pay for the equipment. * The Sheriff's Department gets to pick what equipment they will have to buy. * The private businesses will have to store the tapes on a permanent medium. * The Sheriff's Department will have the authority to inspect the equipment and video tapes at any time. If you're looking for concise quote on the position of the Libertarian Party of West Virginia, it would be this: we are opposed to government mandated video cameras in our private businesses. David Wallace Croft Marion County Chair, Libertarian Party of West Virginia, (304) 363-7913, 804 Old Hickory Drive, Fairmont, WV 26554-8344

To: Theresa Haynes: The video camera ordinance would allow the Sheriff's Department to "inspect" the video tapes at any time. In addition, it is likely that the tapes may be subpoenaed for any number of reasons including business practice inspections, civil torts, and tax evasion investigations. About the only difference between this law and the government just coming in and installing a video camera in your workplace to monitor you, for your safety of course, is that you get the privilege of buying their camera and maintaining the tapes for them. David Wallace Croft Marion County Chair, Libertarian Party of West Virginia, (304) 363-7913, 804 Old Hickory Drive, Fairmont, WV 26554-8344


A newspaper opinion page article wherein the Editor dismisses my opposition as a lone voice.
"People's safety must offset invasion of privacy issue".


Editor of the Fairmont Times West Virginian: I want to express how much I appreciated your thoughtful December 10th editorial "People's safety must offset invasion of privacy issue". You performed a valuable service by raising the awareness of the public of the privacy issue involved in the proposed White Hall ordinance to force area citizens to install video cameras in their private workplaces for their own protection. We thank you for informing your readers that we in the Libertarian Party of West Virginia "oppose laws that take away any rights of the people and loathe the thought of 'Big Brother' monitoring the privacy of citizens." We do, of course, disagree with the opinion of some that "The White Hall safety issue certainly offsets any invasion of privacy that these security cameras might create...". Our reply is concise, and as is our habit, presented by echoing one of the immortal quotes from our Revolutionary Forefathers. The words of Benjamin Franklin that later became the battle cry of his age still hold wisdom today: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." David Wallace Croft Marion County Chair, Libertarian Party of West Virginia, (304) 363-7913, 804 Old Hickory Drive, Fairmont, WV 26554-8344


Newspaper cover story: "White Hall to vote on camera law".

A reporter from Channel 5 (WDTV) comes to my home for a sound bite before the Town Council meeting.

David Croft:
"... such cameras because they will promote our safety but I'm saying let's draw a line in the sand and say, personal option to use such surveillance devices, yes, government mandate of such surveillance devices, no."

I also gave the Channel 5 reporter a copy of the speech I plan to read which was fairly pointless as T.V. news only wants sound bites.

The White Hall Town Council meeting convenes.

Mayor Corley decides that for this meeting all speakers must have signed up on a list otherwise they don't get to speak and he doesn't believe anyone has signed it so.... I get up and go to the back of the room and sign the paper which magically appeared after I had entered. Others do as well.

Mayor Corley decides that for this meeting all speakers are to be limited to one speech only for either 1 or 5 minutes, depending on whether they live or work in White Hall.

Del. Mike Caputo is not at this "historic" meeting but Mayor Corley reads a letter from Del. Caputo apologizing for his not being able to be there and expressing his support of the ordinance. I wonder if Del. Caputo's letter signed up on the list to speak.

James Manchin states that people coming into a video store with the intent to harm have no right to privacy. I think he's missed the point somewhere.

Tom Smith, Warren Compton, and I voice opposition. Tom Smith emphasizes the hidden costs (no free lunch) and White Hall business man Warren Compton objects to the additional government intervention in businesses (red tape).

When I get up to speak, Mayor Corley reminds me that I am limited to 1 minute. I challenge him on that as I live in White Hall and am entitled to 5 minutes under his rule of the day. He says that I don't live in White Hall. I am flattered that he looked up my address before the meeting but I point out that I live in the "Village Apartments at White Hall". He points out that the "Village Apartments at White Hall" are not in White Hall as the developer had specifically requested this and that he can show me a map in the back room if I don't believe him. I start heading toward the back room, he stops me, goes to the back room, fetches the map, and shows me the town of White Hall with a big square chunk carved out of its side where the "Village Apartments at White Hall" are. I accept that he was telling the truth for the time. (I am later told that the developer threatened, kicking and screaming, not to develop if his property was to be a part of White Hall. I confirmed this rumor with my apartment manager.)

Since I have been limited to one minute, I jump straight to my conclusion. I give a copy of the full speech that I had intended to read to Theresa Haynes, the reporter for the newspaper. I regret this as it was my last copy and she never printed it.

The White Hall Town Council unanimously adopts the ordinance.


Newspaper cover story: "White Hall OKs camera law".
Note that the White Hall ordinance is now considered "controversial".
Front Page


The newspaper prints my earlier letters to the Editor from the 12th and the 6th of December:
"Laws that take away people's rights opposed".


To: Editor, Fairmont Times West Virginian: I appreciate the fact that the Times West Virginian chose to print my letters to the Editor in the December 24th section of "Readers Write". Your printing of my letters under the title "Laws that take away people's rights opposed" helps to establish a community bond with regard to our local politics. I did want to offer a bit of criticism about the way the letters were printed, however. The two letters were joined into one in reverse chronological order and merged with the misleading transitional phrase "On another matter". Please be clear in the future as to who is writing what by placing brackets around editorial insertions and modifications. I also find it unfortunate that these letters were not printed until after the Town Council vote. Again, please accept my gratitude and appreciation for printing my letters to the Editor. I encourage you to keep up the good work and I would like for you to know that the "Readers Write" section is one of the first of the newspaper that I read every day. David Wallace Croft Marion County Chair, Libertarian Party of West Virginia, (304) 363-7913, 804 Old Hickory Drive, Fairmont, WV 26554-8344


The letter to the Editor e-mailed on the 3rd is printed in the newspaper.


Private Property, Public Use, Just Compensation

I sent the following letter to the Editor this morning.

Editor, Fairmont Times West Virginian:

G. L. Reymond eloquently presented his case in his January 12th "Readers Write" letter, "No-smoking ordinance form of communism". I appreciate his call for a direct vote instead of leaving it up to a committee on the decision to ban smoking on private property but I wonder if a majoritarian dictatorship is any better than a "totalitarian non-representative form of decision-making process" when it comes to the rights of property owners.

Fortunately, his warning that "If this ordinance is passed the loss of money will be tremendous" should not be a cause for alarm for the property owners as Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution provides them relief from the whims of a self- righteous majority: "...nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation". Our State Constitution is even more sympathetic to the rights of individuals as it ensures compensation for property taken -- or damaged -- with the amount to be determined by jury.

The health board has determined that any private property that is accessible to the public is considered to be of public use and therefore its business operations may be controlled by the public. Similarly, the White Hall Town Council has dictated that privately owned convenience stores which serve the public must install government selected surveillance cameras to monitor their workplaces. While I am thankful that our Constitutions will allow the property owners to recover the damages incurred from these governmental intrusions, I am disappointed that those taxpayers in the minority, who chose not to go along with a majority lacking in historical perspective, will be forced to pay the costs as well.

White Hall Town Council questions payments for stoplight

Later that evening I attended the White Hall Town Council meeting which started with my sitting through the "Pledge of Allegiance (to God)" and the prayer to the God of Jesus Christ as I contemplated our Constitutional right to a separation of Church and State. Afterwards, I had this to say:

Editor, Fairmont Times West Virginian:

I was much impressed by the due diligence that the White Hall Town Council exhibited at their January 12th meeting. On quite a number of issues, they questioned whether they were getting fair value for the the taxpayers' money. I appreciate this.

One example of which is where two or three of the Town Council members questioned why they were being required by the State to pay for the maintenance of a new stoplight when they had no say as to whether they even needed it or not. I applaud their spirit of independence and sense of fair play and I now ask them to consider this: if they resent being forced to pay for something "for the public good" in their own home town when they are not necessarily of the opinion that they need it, perhaps they can understand why private property owners might resent being forced by the recent White Hall Town Council ordinance to install surveillance devices in their workplaces "for the public good".

One issue at the meeting I did not understand is when Mayor Corley started speaking in pronoun code. His statement that "The guy I was talking about earlier has agreed to put that thing on that property." It was clear to most of us in attendance that he was deliberately obscuring something but one innocent Council Member asked as to which property he was referring. In response, Mayor Corley pointed south and another Council Member reminded the group that they were not to speak of the issue publicly. I was uncomfortable with this sort of treatment toward the attendees. I do not know what the Town Council would need to hide from the people on whose behalf they make decisions. Is the Town Council dealing with classified material? How are such things written up in the minutes?

Speaking of the minutes, I enthusiastically applaud their decision to proceed with setting up a White Hall web page. I look forward to them making their documents such as rules, meeting minutes, treasury reports, and proposed ordinances readily accessible to the public. This move to make the local government of the people more accessible and comprehensible is something to be emulated at all levels.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding this web page may be directed to David Croft.