City warned against continuing to harass and threaten resident
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 18, 2013
CONTACT: Tyler Richard, (402) 476-8091 x104,
LINCOLN – The ACLU of Nebraska yesterday warned the City of Creighton that it cannot force a resident to cease political speech nor can it determine the content that appears in a newspaper. The warning was sent to City Attorney Andrew Marshall on behalf of Mike Nutting who alleges the city has violated his First Amendment rights.
According to the warning letter Mike Nutting has been harassed by the city for his letters to the local paper criticizing City Council actions. According to Nutting, he wrote a letter to the Creighton News in October of 2013 which questioned City Council decisions. On November 14, 2013 the City Council ordered Nutting to cease and desist and demanded that Nutting write an apology which would need approval from the city attorney. After writing another letter to the editor in December 2013, the City Council held an executive session to consider litigation against Nutting.
The ACLU indicated that if the city were to press charges, they would defend Nutting.
"The right to criticize the government is a cornerstone of American democracy," said ACLU of Nebraska Legal Director Amy Miller. "The Creighton City Council has reached back to the history books and found the type of tyranny our constitution was designed to prevent. The role of government should not be to censor, particularly when it comes to political speech."
Nutting, a retired real estate investor, has a long history of community service. In addition to teaching classes on real estate and property management, he has served on the boards for Habitat for Humanity and other groups, administered group homes for those recovering from alcohol addiction, and served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children who have been abused or neglected and are in the court system.
"I know this is about freedom of speech," said Nutting, "but it is also about participation in government. I want an open government that shares what it is doing. My neighbors currently don't want to get involved with politics. You should be proud to serve and proud of what you have accomplished. The Creighton City Council is not just censoring me, but discouraging anyone from speaking up and being involved."
Joel Donahue, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Nebraska writes in the letter, "Our nation was founded in part on the principals of open debate and the right of citizens to publicly disagree with those in power. This includes the right to be rude, sexist, offensive and even outright wrong. The fact that Mr. Nutting may have made one or more mistakes of fact in his letters to the editor does not change the constitutional analysis. No democracy can function if those who would challenge the government live in fear of a lawsuit if they speak their minds."