Local beekeeper Terrence Ingram was ordered to pay the price - a fine of $500 - for violating Sections 2-1 of the Illinois Bees and Apiaries Act.
The results of the April 4, 2012 hearing regarding the Illinois Department of Agriculture vs. Terrence Ingram of Apple Creek Apiaries in Apple River, IL were received by The Prairie Advocate last week, pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by the newspaper.
In the May 2 issue of The Prairie Advocate, in the “Heart of the Matter” column by Publisher Tom Kocal, Ingram’s “side of the story” was presented, with additional commentary by the publisher. Ingram’s story was offered because he did not have the opportunity to defend his “failure to abate the nuisance,” a claim by the agency that his honeybee colonies were infected with the American foulbrood disease.
Upon review of the order handed down by the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDofAg), Ingram’s representation of the events at the hearing are accurate. Ingram was notified by certified mail of the Formal Complaint and Notice of Hearing, which was initially set for March 21, one week after Ingram’s property was confiscated. Upon Ingram’s motion, the hearing was continued to April 4.
Steve Chard, IDofAG Apiary Inspection Supervisor, testified that under the Illinois Bees and Apiaries Act, “Department investigators are allowed to enter onto the property of those registered with the Department.”
At a hearing held at the Illinois Department of Agriculture in Springfield, conducted by the same agency that confiscated Ingram’s property 3 weeks before the hearing, and without the evidence at the hearing, the testimony of IDofAg officials confirms that evidence presented was based on test results from a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture laboratory in Maryland.
Ingram stated his acknowledgment of the potential effect foulbrood may have on bee colonies. Testimony shows that the IDofAg was aware that Ingram “was adamant that his hives did not have American foulbrood. Ingram expressed his concern before the March 14 incident, and also testified that “even though . . . foulbrood was detected in samples taken from his hives, it does not mean the actual disease has infected his hives.”
The “Conclusion of Law” handed down by the IDofAg is spurious, as the agency claims that “the standard of proof in any contested hearing conducted under the Administrative Procedure Act by an agency is a preponderance of the evidence.”
In most civil cases/lawsuits as well as administrative hearings, a party must prove its claim or position by a preponderance, defined as a superiority in weight, force, importance, etc. In legal terms, a preponderance of evidence means that a party has shown that its version of facts, causes, damages, or fault is more likely than not the correct version, as in personal injury and breach of contract suits. This standard is the easiest to meet and applies to all civil cases unless otherwise provided by law.
Yet, Ingram never had the ability to present his evidence, as it was not only destroyed, but confiscated and destroyed 3 weeks before the hearing.
In the Court of Public Opinion, that is, from the comments received at this newspaper the past two weeks, there have been only 2 readers that completely missed the point of the commentary. As mentioned above, the article was Ingram’s story, in his words, from his perspective. The obvious point was made that due process was not given to Ingram.
Of the countless other comments received, the violation of a citizen’s Constitutional rights struck a nerve with most of them, including a U.S. Congressman, who will remain nameless until I have the opportunity to speak with him directly.
For now, this story is not yet over. Ingram has the right to appeal this “administrative hearing Order” by filing a Petition for reconsideration with the Director of the IDofAg by May 27. Ingram is currently seeking legal advice.
Ingram also has the right to appeal to the Circuit Court, as final administrative decisions are subject to judicial review under Article III of the Code of Civil Procedure and rules adopted under that article.
Interesting protocol: Find a citizen guilty, abscond with his personal property, have a hearing with no physical evidence presented, fine him $500 over the cost of his missing equipment, then allow him the right to appeal to a Circuit Court.