Los Gatos Town Council’s censure of a planning commissioner for using “divisive” language caught the attention of First Amendment advocates who say the council’s disciplinary process violated the commissioner’s constitutional rights and was “plain and simple, illegal.”
The Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to the town council March 1, urging them to revoke Commissioner Kylie Clark’s censure — a formal disapproval of her comments which she was given after calling out the “rich, white anti-housing men” in Los Gatos.
“That’s just pure and utter censorship. They’re saying, ‘We don’t like this speech, and that’s why we’re going to discipline it,’ and that’s exactly what you can’t do,” said Shilpi Agarwal, legal director of the ACLU of Northern California.
This letter is the first step in what could turn into a lawsuit between the ACLU and the town over Clark’s First Amendment rights. The ACLU argued that the censure was “fragrantly illegal and violative of Miss Clark’s free speech rights,” and that the town was trying to “make an example out of her.“
Town Attorney Gabrielle Whelan said she is in talks with the ACLU, and that the Los Gatos’ Policy Commission is working on updating its disciplinary process.
“We are definitely reviewing the letter, and the policy committee met last week…to discuss updating the town’s code of conduct policy, so we have an update underway,” Whelan said.
Clark said since the hearing, she has been getting an influx of mostly negative messages from people about her comments.
“It was validating to see the ACLU reach out and say that my First Amendment rights were violated because it did feel that way the whole time,” Clark said.
Last November, Clark wrote a letter to the state Department of Housing and Community Development about the referendum of the town’s 2040 General Plan, in which she said it was paid for and passed by rich, white, anti-housing men in our town.”
Council was made aware of the letter after several angry residents reached out to staff, which launched an ad-hoc disciplinary committee that used a “patchwork” approach to determine how to discipline Clark for her “unconstructive” comments.
Part of the disciplinary process included a public hearing on Feb. 15 where dozens of members of the public said the letter used “racist” and “biased” language, and that Clark was “inexperienced” and “racist.”
“Whether or not they think that the comments are racist is sort …read more
Source:: The Mercury News