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Civics 101: The First Amendment

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Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to Jakki Taylor's letter that supported my removal from the July 10 Paonia Town Board meeting by the mayor.

What Mayor Charles Stewart and Ms. Taylor must realize is that in a public forum, such as a town meeting, their personal opinions and judgements are NOT the law.

Not only did Mayor Stewart violate the Code of Conduct by interrupting the speaker, he violated his oath of office to uphold the laws of our nation by denying my First Amendment right to speak about an agenda item. He silenced me, removed me from the podium and expelled me from the meeting. The mayor does not have the authority to restrict public speech to fit his interpretation of what is relevant.

This incident was another in a series of inappropriate attacks. I join many others in Paonia who believe the meetings are run in a way that fosters hostility and contempt within the town and disengagement from the public. I would like to remind the board that allowing such behavior from an elected official may put the town at risk by creating a possible civil rights liability. A town hall meeting is meaningless when people are bullied and diverse opinions are stifled.

Suzanne Watson
Paonia

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