Editor’s note: After publication of this story, the Christian County Sheriff’s office responded via email with its written policy on what items cannot be taken into the historic courthouse on the square. It says, in part: “Large Bags of any kind, including duffel bags, backpacks, oversize purses.”
Stephanie Haslag, 63, of Nixa says she doesn’t walk so well anymore and recently was surprised that her purse was too big to get into the historic Christian County courthouse on the square.
Her husband had to walk it back to their car before they could enter the courthouse to vote absentee.
She contacted the newspaper to inquire about the Christian County Sheriff’s policy on purses.
Stephanie says she was told by deputies that only purses smaller than 8½-by-11 inches would be allowed inside the building, which opened in December 1920 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
If you’re not familiar with the courthouse, its use today is only occasionally as a court room. The space primarily is for county offices, such as the county clerk.
Her question certainly seemed straightforward and easy to answer, or confirm. All I had to do is ask Sheriff Brad Cole.
I called the sheriff’s office and left a message. (I was told Cole had just left the building but would be back.) I also emailed him; I left a message on his cellphone.
Then it hit me. The most recent time I mentioned the sheriff by name was in a July column where I made fun of the amount of time his deputies worked undercover at the former Illusions strip club in order to shut it down.
Yes, I thought, the sheriff might not be returning my call.
One sheriff called me back
With that likelihood in mind, I drove to the courthouse Tuesday. I identified myself as a reporter and asked the two deputies at security what the policy was on purses — not that I had one.
Is is true that only purses smaller than 8½-by 11 inches are allowed in?
“That used to be the policy,” one of them told me.
And then referred me to the sheriff.
I mentioned to him that I did not see any signs regarding purse size as I entered the security checkpoint. Am I right? Are there no signs?
Again, he referred me to the sheriff.
Sadly, I did not hear back from the sheriff by deadline.
Stephanie also told me in her email that the deputy who told her that her purse was too big also told her that all the nearby counties were enforcing the same policy on purse size.
Is she right? Is this accurate?
I don’t know; I did not hear back from the sheriff.
But I did call a different sheriff. Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott quickly called me back and reported that his deputies — the ones that staff the metal detectors and X-ray machine with conveyor belt at the courthouse entrance — have no rule on purse size.
“As long as it fits into the X-ray machine,” he says.
I’ve been to the Greene County courthouse and gone through security many times. It would have to be a Paul Bunyan-esque purse not to fit into that machine.
(Please, I am not suggesting that lumberjacks, especially giant lumberjacks, carry purses.)
In summary, Stephanie, I cannot confirm what you told me regarding your experience and what the official Christian County Sheriff office’s policy is on purse size.
But as more of the good people of Christian County head to the courthouse to vote absentee during this pandemic, maybe consider this column as a public service announcement.
Call first. Or take your clutch.
Keep those questions coming. Send them to The Answer Man at 417-836-1253, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail to 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.
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