Written by Andrew Speer ~ Polson
In reviewing the article published in the Valley Journal (October 29, 2014) regarding Judge Manley’s decision about the Polson Open Government case, there are issues. He admitted Polson City Government violated Montana Constitution Law, but he ignored it. His justification for ignoring that law violates Federal Constitution Law.
Manley’s reason for not following the law was swayed by an “angry outburst” in the courtroom. He is referring to someone who raised his hand to clarify an issue that dealt with him personally-hardly an out of control outburst. Everyone else in the courtroom, including the citizens who filed the suit, followed the courtroom protocol and sat quietly observing.
Manley wrote, “When free speech and the right to participate is taken as a green light to violate the rules of conduct and insult public officials, this does not water the tree of participatory democracy.” We are a Republic, a nation of laws protecting individual rights, not a majority rules democracy.
What about freedom of speech? Manley said someone said the “c” word, “corrupt”, at a city council meeting. Should that word be banned? What descriptive word should replace it? Who should decide what can be said, by whom, and when? In my years of attending Polson city council meetings, I have never observed an outburst–someone from the audience jumping up and speaking other than at allotted times to speak. I also have never witnessed Judge Manley at any of the Polson City Council meetings either, so I wonder where he is getting his hearsay information. Sometimes the public should speak and question the direction and procedures that government is implementing. Hopefully, the public and the officials will not be offended by what the other is saying, but there are no guarantees. Freedom of speech, the first amendment, should not be violated by Judge Manley or City Government.