The ongoing fight for free speech

March 28, 2014 

In step with a Belleville News-Democrat editorial, I am working on letting the light shine in on the Madison County monthly meetings, but I ran into another buzz saw.

I videoed and spoke at their March 19 meeting. I barely got started when Chairman Alan Dunstan used his gavel and presented me with the procedure for public input at County Board meetings. The last sentence of Rule 9 was underlined: "Shouting loud statements, threats, name-calling, offensive personal references or other improper conduct are strictly forbidden. Each presentation shall be in consonance with good taste and the decorum befitting the occasion and the dignity of the meeting."

After I said, "... I know that Vanessa ...," the chairman said I was not allowed to use names, personal references or anything of that nature and then gave me a copy of the procedures. I asked if he was aware of the First Amendment and he answered, "I am familiar with the First Amendment."

I started again, saying that a person had an 8.9 percent pay increase and was again gaveled. Dunstan said, "You are bringing personal items up again and are not allowed to do that." The rules state offensive personal references and my saying an employee receiving a raise is certainly not offensive. The video shows State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, sitting at the left hand of the chairman, started staring at me at this time.

It is my opinion that the board audio tapes the meetings.

Bob DesPain


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