A “Trump Parade” honoring and promoting President Donald Trump made its way through downtown Jackson on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 20. It lasted approximately 18 minutes, but the issue over its attendant costs to the public has gone on much longer.

The controversy spilled over into the most recent meeting of Jackson City Council when the parade organizer showed up to protest a bill in the amount of $1,413.12 he had received from the City of Jackson to cover the cost of public manpower and vehicles. However, as it turned out, the matter was resolved with the organizer and city officials feeling good about the outcome -- the eliminating of the bill, and a donation being made to both the Jackson Police Department and the Jackson Fire Department.

Vinton County resident Mark Fout organized the parade, which began on U.S. Route 50 in western Vinton County and wound through parts of Vinton, Jackson, Pike and Ross counties. The route took the long procession involving several hundred vehicles through the towns of McArthur, Hamden, Wellston, Coalton, Jackson, Piketon, Waverly, and Chillicothe. Fout is a Republican-elected Vinton County Commissioner, but he organized the Trump Parade as an individual and as a Trump supporter.

The Trump Parade was escorted by an off-duty Vinton County Sheriff’s Office deputy along its entire 97-mile route and a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy served as a second escort through Jackson County. Fout had made arrangements in advance for this assistance and stated he planned to pay for it.

However, other law enforcement and/or public safety personnel also assisted with traffic-control services throughout the route and Jackson County resident Lisa Parker was quick to publicly bring up the propriety and legality of tax-supported law enforcement and public-safety services being used to support what she viewed as a political event.

She contacted The Telegram as well as county, municipal or law enforcement officials along the involved parade route regarding her concerns and contended the parade organizer should reimburse the involved agencies.

Immediately after the parade and aware of the payment issue, Fout told The Telegram he was paying the bill for the law enforcement services provided by both the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office, which he had planned for and arranged. He stated he did not ask for similar services from any other agency along the route.

Fout presented a copy of an invoice to The Telegram which showed he compensated the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, stating that he paid $60 ($30 an hour) for the traffic-control services of one special deputy for two hours. Fout was also billed $40 for the use of a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office vehicle for two hours.

As for Vinton County, Fout initially told The Telegram that he paid the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office $20 an hour for the use of a vehicle and that the participating off-duty deputy donated his time. However, Fout later supplied an invoice from the Vinton County Sheriff’s Office, which indicated he was billed a total of $230.26 to cover all costs. He says he paid $300 with the balance above the invoice to be considered a donation.

As for the City of Jackson’s role in the Trump Parade, the Jackson Police Department facilitated the parade by setting the traffic lights on East Main Street to stay on green when the procession was passing through. Police officers were not part of the escort, but monitored the parade and provided traffic control at some of the key intersections. The Jackson Fire Department also provided some traffic-control services.

Aware of this, Parker made a public-records request to the Jackson city administration to obtain information regarding the city’s use of resources and expenses in conjunction with the parade and any related bills to Fout which resulted. Uncertain about the city’s legal obligation to charge Fout, Jackson Mayor Randy Evans instructed Service/Safety Director David Swackhammer to prepare a bill to present to Fout reflecting the city’s cost.

Working with established unit and time costs for manpower and vehicles which were supplied by the city auditor’s office, Swackhammer came up with a bill totaling $1,413.12. This covered the hourly pay of two police officers and four firefighters for a two-hour period as well as the use of two police cruisers and four fire trucks, also for a two-hour period.

A very unhappy Fout attended the Oct. 12 Jackson City Council meeting to protest the bill and offered a compromise in which he would make a $200 donation to the Jackson Police Department in exchange for the city retracting the bill. He pointed out that he had not sought extra services from the city and felt like he didn’t owe the city any money. At one point he described the bill presented to him as “ridiculous.”

Fout also pointed out that other than the sheriff’s offices of Vinton County and Jackson County – which he expected to pay – he has not received bills for services from any other agency or local government in the four counties.

During the discussion at the meeting, City Attorney Joe Kirby was asked for his opinion on the city’s legal obligation to charge Fout and Kirby concluded that he could not find that the city was legally required to bill for services in this set of circumstances.

Evans, while accepting responsibility for the decision to bill Fout in the first place, also said he didn’t care if the city didn’t bill Fout at all and opened the door for council’s input. However, council didn’t seem to have a strong opinion on the billing decision and left the matter in the hands of Evans.

After the meeting, Swackhammer spoke with Fout and it was agreed the city would no longer charge Fout and Fout responded by insisting on going forward with a $200 voluntary donation to the city with $100 to go to the Jackson Police Department and $100 to the Jackson Fire Department.

In addressing the final resolution with The Telegram, Swackhammer stated that the city’s reversal on the bill came down to Kirby’s legal input and also on Mayor Evans simply deciding to reconsider his decision after taking into account all the facts.

“We had no history and we have learned from this,” Swackhammer concluded. “I’m proud of the mayor for being willing to change his decision, and we are all fine now with the outcome.”

Fout also expressed his satisfaction with the way things worked out. He issued the following statement to The Telegram:

“To the people of Jackson County, I’m sorry if you had a hard time with a parade that was about the American flag and our leader. The City of Jackson and I agreed the bill was sent by mistake. But I made a donation to the fire and police department. So to the taxpayers in the city of Jackson, this was paid for by Mark Fout. Please respect the city council and the members, as well as the mayor. I would also say thanks to the council for allowing me to speak at their meeting to get this resolved.”