County Commissioner Haney issues statement on free speech, public comment at meeting

 

Submitted by La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney

Haney

Freedom of speech and redress of government are an integral part of the foundation of a constitutional republic and any democratic process. Silencing public speech not only disillusions the citizenry, it is a sure way to sow seeds of mistrust and contempt of government.

What I witnessed during the Feb. 3, 2021, commissioners meeting was an appalling suppression of speech initiated by County Attorney Shaw Friedman and followed up by Commission President Richard Mrozinski. During public comment, Auditor Tim Stabosz stepped up to the public podium for his three minutes of public comment and, barely one minute into his comments, he was cut off for allegedly violating “public comment” rules and was not allowed to continue.

I do not believe Auditor Stabosz’ comments violated public comment rules and I motioned to overrule the chair and allow Mr Stabosz his remaining time for public comment. Commissioner Sheila Matias then sided with President Mrozinski and my motion failed. President Mrozinski ultimately ordered Auditor Stabosz to “sit down” and then proceeded to threaten to call security.

I have reviewed the public comment rules, which were adopted by the previous board, and I find them so overly broad as to be able to disallow virtually any public comment for any reason. Rules for public comment should be centered around maintaining a sense of proper decorum for public meetings and preventing profanities and vulgarity. Instead, these rules can be used, as was the case Feb. 3, to silence someone who was repeating and speaking to what was said during the prior commission meeting.

These public comment rules are arbitrary, capricious and incompatible with the right of the people to a redress of government. I will be working on revising the public comment rules to ensure both proper public meeting decorum is maintained and the rights of the citizens are respected.

For those who would like to see what transpired for themselves, you can find the entire meeting here: https://youtu.be/u84m4PhduY8?t=245 (the time stamp is 4:05).
Joe Haney, commissioner, District 3
Vice Ppesident, LaPorte County Board of Commissioners

One Response to “County Commissioner Haney issues statement on free speech, public comment at meeting”

  1. Bill Proud

    Feb 08. 2021

    You probably believe the people that stormed the Capital Building were just exerciseing their right to free speech. Stabosz has a history of disruptive behavior at public meetings. Both of you need to get along. Let’s work together and get things done.

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