Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27, 2012 Kay Senter Attempts To Infringe on a Citizen's First Amendment Rights

In the first video (4/3/12) Carl Murphy is addressing council during the public comments portion of the meeting about the state legislature's discussion and votes on the "McGuffin Law." Councilmember Kay Senter does not like how Mr. Murphy is expressing himself and asks the Mayor to control Mr. Murphy's speech. She wants the Mayor to forbid Mr. Murphy from mentioning names. She also wants Mr. Murphy to be forbidden from offering a general description of individuals because the description might, gasp, identify a person.

If there's an attack on the Mayor, LeBel will join in. True to form, LeBel joins in to support Senter's attempts to control what Mr. Murphy says and, of course, to criticize the Mayor.  Mayor Thomas tries to calm LeBel down and accommodate Ms. Senter while allowing Mr. Murphy to complete his remarks.

Charles Cook was present at the meeting and discussed the attempt to control how a citizen addresses council with City Attorney Dick Jessee.  Mr. Murphy and I were also concerned and joined the discussion.  Mr. Jessee reviewed Mr. Murphy's remarks and said he didn't see anything wrong with what Mr. Murphy was saying. He added that he didn't say anything at the time because he wasn't asked.

In the second video (4/17/12) Carl Murphy is again addressing council. He specifically asks the Mayor to ask the City Attorney for an opinion if there are any further attempts to infringe on his First Amendment rights in a public forum. No one interrupts Mr. Murphy.

This is not Senter's first attempt to control public comments and input. Two months ago Senter was lined up with LeBel, Bivens, and Garrett in voting to put public comments, other than public hearings on ordinances, at the end of council meetings after all votes had been taken. She also voted for LeBel's proposal on 2/7/12 to reduce the time allowed for  public comments from three minutes to two minutes.

A letter from Mayor Thomas alerting citizens to the LeBel-Senter-Garrett-Bivens proposal went out. The council chambers were packed and overflowing when the LeBel-Senter-Garrett-Bivens proposal was up for a final vote. See the letter here.

With a packed house and the public speaking against the limitations on public comments, LeBel, Senter, Garrett, and Bivens backed down and amended their original proposal to add an opportunity for people to speak to council on agenda items before any vote. After an impassioned speech by Rev. Richard Crayne,  they also decided to leave the time allotted for public comments at three minutes. Click here.

It looked like they had seen the light. But two months later Senter is attempting to control and direct how a citizen, who is being perfectly respectful, expresses himself.

1 comment:

Eric Holcombe said...

So "it isn't time for Q and A", well, except if Kay or Lebel want to question what is being said and interrupt. Pretty clear to me...

I would maybe say Murphy's remarks are a slight to all good braves and chiefs....but sunlight as the disinfectant...can't argue with that.