By Josh Resnek
City Solicitor Colleen Mejia gave an instructional to the city council on freedom of speech at Monday night’s meeting.
She was asked to appear by Council President Peter Napolitano to discuss freedom of speech issues as it relates to social media.
Since Councilor Peter Simonelli caused a brouhaha with racially inspired statements he wrote on Facebook, the council has ben barraged with requests from citizens claiming that Simonelli should not have the right to say such things.“Elected officials do not lose their First Amendment rights to free speech because they are public officials,” said Mejia.
“There are no limits to free speech for officials,” she added.
However councilors seemed concerned with efforts to pass council rules or to make City Charter changes to reign in or to control the rights of councilors to have their say.
They did not heed Mejia’s sage words about freedom of speech.
You cannot infringe on an individuals right to free speech,” she repeated.
Still, President Napolitano said efforts are underway to implement a policy for city employees and for elected public officials so there will be limits or rules that govern what they can or cannot say.
“If a city employee or an elected public official goes on social media he or she should separate themselves from their position by saying their comments do not represent those of the city or of themselves as employees – rather, they should say it is personal,” added Mejia.
This didn’t stop Napolitano from complaining: “We don’t have rules about what can be said by individuals.”
Indeed. Such rules, according to the city solicitor, cannot be enforced.