by Loveland Magazine Publisher, David Miller
Mayor Mark Fitzgerald announced at the beginning of the May 23 Council meeting that he has instituted a “zero tolerance policy” towards whispering or passing documents during meetings. The Mayor in recent months has used his gavel indiscriminately and in a random manner to quiet the audience attending meetings. He routinely warns them against applauding what their fellow citizen’s say during the open forum portion of meetings. Lately, he has warned citizens he will use the police force to remove anyone who disrupts the meetings
Less than five minutes later, when Councilwoman, Pam Gross walked to the same podium the public uses, he allows, and joins, in applauding Gross’ presentation. Then, seconds later, when resident, Mike Meldon followed Gross to the same podium, and the audience applauded Meldon’s comments about how important the environment was to the community, the Mayor said he was issuing his final warning about applause and he will be asking the police to remove anyone who, “Disrespects that request.”
The Mayor was speaking on behalf of all of Council. None objected to the policy. There are two other people sitting at the council table who also remained silent, Dave Kennedy, the City Manager and Joe Braun, the City lawyer. These are the two professionals Council hires to keep them out of trouble. Professionals, who have been hired based on their knowledge and expertise of the law and how a municipality operates within the laws of Loveland’s Charter, the Ohio Constitution, the Ohio Revised Code, and the Constitution of the United States.
[quote_box_left]No matter, Fitzgerald needs counsel now, and there are nine people who have a sworn duty to deliver it to him, because, sitting on your hands is equivalent to sitting on the Constitution.[/quote_box_left]In addition, the Loveland Police Chief is almost always in the room, another professional the City has hired to protect citizen’s rights.
Nine people who are sworn to protect our citizens have sat silent and not objected while the Mayor, at random whim, takes away the public’s right to free speech, and threatens to use the “color” of the police department for enforcement.
See below just recent examples of how Fitzgerald shows favor to certain subjects and individuals and bullies other silent.
If in his randomness, Fitzgerald continues, or heaven forbid has someone removed from the room or arrested, he will have hoed himself and taxpayers a deep, deep furrow because of his discrimination. He will certainly lose in court, and it will be taxpayers paying the bills.
Fitzgerald’s discriminatory, gavel is causing turmoil in our community and doing harm to the Community’s reputation.
Perhaps there are three “majority” members of Council who are afraid that if they cross the Mayor they will be treated to the same wrath and scolding, but that is not an adequate excuse. Perhaps the other three “minority” members of Council are sitting on their hands, thinking ahead to election time, letting the Mayor dig his deeper furrow.
No matter, Fitzgerald needs counsel now, and there are nine people who have a sworn duty to deliver it to him, because, sitting on your hands is equivalent to sitting on the Constitution.
In this LOVELAND MAGAZINE TV video, you will see clips of the Mayor indiscriminately enforcing his rule against applause within about ten minutes of issuing his warning. He allows applause when fellow council member Pam Gross takes the podium, and himself is seen applauding, but gives the audience a final warning when the next speaker, a resident, speaks about the importance of Loveland’s environment.
In this LOVELAND MAGAZINE TV video, you will see other clips of the Mayor indiscriminately enforcing his rules. In one clip from several meetings ago you will see Fitzgerald telling resident Tom Calarco to turn around and speak to Council and not the public. Calarco had only turned his head, looking to see if there were any police officers in the room, whom he had just complimented. In the next clip, you will see Fitzgerald allowing Councilwoman Gross to rearrange the microphone on the podium so she could stand behind the podium, and address the audience with her back to the rest of Council.
This seems to also hit the nail on the head. A lot of citizens learned this sense of fair treatment and equal protection under the law when we were a child watching a B&W TV.
Where have I observed this type of gross abuse of (little) power before? Oh yes, here:
It would be invaluable to find out where our police stand on this, as Fitzgerald’s attempted totalitarian management approach is far beyond what is permitted by the state of Ohio (see below for more on that).
If a Loveland police officer is asked to “remove” someone legally exercising his/her right to free association, speech, expression, etc., from a public place, do they actually do it?
I hope that the silence from city representatives in the room was due to a desire to move on with the meeting agenda, rather than to derail it with this nonsense, and that the matter will be publicly clarified at the next opportunity.
This issue is governed by Ohio’s Open Meetings Act. For more information on the Open Meetings Act, go to http://www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Sunshine – click on “Sunshine Laws Manual” for a pdf download. Here are a few relevant excerpts.
“[T]he Open Meetings Act requires the members of a public body to discuss and deliberate on official business only in open meetings.(935)” – page 94
A “public body” is defined as “[a]ny legislative authority or board, commission, committee, council, agency, authority, or similar decision-making body of any county, township, municipal corporation, school district, or other political subdivision or local public institution;(882) ….” (page 89).
A “meeting” is defined as:
1) a prearranged gathering of
2) a majority of the members of a public body
3) for the purpose of discussing public business.(922) (page 92)
“The Open Meetings Act requires public bodies to provide: (A) openness; (B) notice; and (C) minutes.”
Under Section A, Openness:
“3. Right to hear but not to be heard or to disrupt
“All meetings of any public body are declared to be public meetings open to the public at all times.(966) A court found that members of a public body who whispered and passed documents among themselves constructively closed that portion of their meeting by intentionally preventing the audience from hearing or knowing the business the body discussed.(967) However, the Open Meetings Act does not provide (or prohibit) attendees the right to be heard at meetings, and a public body may place limitations on the time, place, and manner of access to its meetings, as long as the restrictions are content neutral and narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest.(968) Further, a disruptive person waives his or her right to attend meetings, and the body may remove that person from the meeting.(969)” – pages 97-98
Footnote 967 above references Manogg vs. Stickle, the case that Fitzgerald inappropriately claims as precedent for his “Zero Tolerance” rule.
Footnote 969 cites another case: “When an audience becomes so uncontrollable that the public body cannot deliberate, it would seem that the audience waives its right …. under the Sunshine Law to continue to observe the proceedings.”
So Fitzgerald got one thing right: council meeting attendees (and members!) do not have the right to be disruptive. However, his assertion (detailed in a previous article in this Magazine) that “the public’s whispering or passing documents among themselves during meetings …. was intentionally “preventing the audience from hearing or knowing the business of the body discussed”” is a ridiculous and groundless attempt to quash our rights.
Council has the power to override any decision of the Presiding Officer at any time by motion. Since they have not made a motion to do so, then they all silently endorse Mark Fitzgerald.
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