Madison - St. Clair Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Freedom of speech includes freedom to criticize public officials

By The Madison County Record | Feb 16, 2016

To the Editor:

"Managers/Council" is the title of the current Collinsville form of government. It operates with only four elected Council persons and an elected mayor also acting as chairman. It was in 1990 that the city changed to this form.

Since then a dozen city managers have been hired. In 2014, former chief of police Scott Williams took the manager job and was terminated after two new council members were elected in 2015. One was the city clerk Williams was investigating.

The Belleville News Democrat requested the records of that investigation and was denied but obtained them on appeal. The city was conducting the people's business and the people have a right to know. City legal fees are also involved and according to past practices should become a public record by the end of February. Another improvement opportunity was brought to the attention of our city Council about chairman Mayor John Miller interrupting a speaker as he was addressing the council.

The mayor asked if he was accusing him of being corrupt. It seems not only does federal freedom of speech provide protection by calling a chairman corrupt but as of 2011 so does Illinois law that may not forbid speakers from making "personal" comment. That includes boards and commissions and any other local bodies.

Bob Despain


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