Open Meetings: Boards Can’t Stifle Unpleasantly Sharp Attacks

Elected boards can not stifle or silence non-slanderous but caustic and unpleasantly sharp speech, especially where they’ve earned it. Constitutional case law established this over 50 years ago. Copperhead has drafted a sample letter for your community group to consider sending to the local elected Board Chairman, Administrator and Police Chief prior to speaking during any public comment time placed on the Agenda, during the meeting of a local government board. Our sample letter follows:

Board Chairman
Legal Counsel
Area Chief of Police
Local Government Body

City, ST  Zip

Dear Parties;

This is to remind you during future meetings of your public body where you allow for comment from members of the public who are engaging in non-slanderous speech, directed to any one public official seated for the meeting that any such speaker engaging in robust, wide-open, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp speech targeted to one or more of the public officials can not be instructed to be silent or even moderate their tone.

This is according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision of New York Times v. Sullivan.

“Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials. See Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U. S. 1, 337 U. S. 4; De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U. S. 353,”

It would make legal matters much worse if the [local government] administrator (insert name) would violate this Constitutional case law and order local law enforcement officials to remove such speaker from the podium, prior to the end of their allotted time.

To that end, I strongly urge you Chairman (Insert Name) to maintain proper decorum and orderliness of the meeting and not let the Administrator seize control out of your proper hands.

If any one of the board members, or the group, do not want to receive unpleasantly sharp speech let me encourage them to re-think their policies/votes which are generating it or else resign their office.

Thank you.


John Q. Public

Roll Back Local Government