IN THE NEWS
Letter to the Editor by Mr. Richard Malmin, reporter for the Geneva Shore Report and Lake Geneva activist.
Dear Mr. Draper
As City Attorney, I am requesting that you instruct the Public Works Committee Chairman, Bob Kordus, that the Constitutional, First Amendment right of free speech applies expressly to citizens speaking at Public Meetings. Public forums, like city committee meetings, are the bastions of free speech and should be afforded the most protection because such meetings are the basic form of citizen government. It is where “the people” come together to share their ideas and discuss public questions.
I believe Mr. Kordus, along with Alderman Sarah Hill, violated my right of free speech when they denied me the opportunity to speak at the Thursday’s 3/12/15 Public Works Committee Meeting during the “Public Comments” section of the Meeting. The only 2 limitations on Public Comments as shown on the Agenda for that meeting (see attached) were specified as:
“limited to items on this agenda,” and “limited to 5 minutes.”
The Item I choose to speak on was clearly listed on the Agenda below the bold heading “AGENDA” and under “Communications.” It was the #2 item: ” Salt/Sand usage update.” The minute I started to speak, I was rudely interrupted by Alderman Hill who objected to what I was about to say. She took control of the meeting and claimed the item I was talking about wasn’t on the Agenda. When I showed her it was, in fact, on the agenda below the word AGENDA in bold type, she told me that it didn’t matter that it was there, it wasn’t one of the items that the committee wanted to discuss.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of Agenda is: “A list of items to be discussed at a formal meeting.” My item for discussion was on list of items on the Agenda. If Mr. Kordus and Ms. Hill wanted to limit discussion to the heading “Agenda Items” the Public Comments must read: Limited to items under Agenda Items only. Mr. Kordus and Ms. Hill are representatives of a subunit of a governmental body (Wis. Stat. § 19.82), and as such are prohibited from abridging my right of free speech. Their action to impede my right to speak was not only arbitrary and capricious, it was illegal. I am not planning to take legal action against the City of Lake Geneva in this instance, but I will certainly consider doing so should this re-occur in the future.
Thank you for your attention.