(La Porte County, IN) - A local official is alleging his freedom of speech has been violated.
La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz was told to sit down during the public comment period of Wednesday’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting. Stabosz made a few remarks about some recent controversies involving newly elected commissioner Joe Haney being replaced on the La Porte County Redevelopment Commission and the La Porte County Health Department by commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias.
Mrozinski interrupted him citing code of conduct rules designed to keep public comment sessions from boiling over from criticisms and accusations.
La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman backed up Mrozinski with specifics about the rules. (see the exchange at 3:54 on this Access La Porte County video)
Stabosz said he didn’t say anything out of line but two other people after him were allowed to cross the line with their comments. “I'm interrupted by a county attorney saying that I'm in violation of the rules of engagement on speaking, which is laughable and outrageous and not true. The commissioners, you know, backed it up and shut down a public comment and then allowed two other people to speak who were clearly more incendiary or more charged up in what they had to say than what I had to say. So, it's clearly a form of censorship,” he said.
Stabosz said he’s taking his complaint to the American Civil Liberties Union. Much of the other political friction lately has to do with La Porte County attorney Shaw Friedman being rehired.
Friedman said he’s in the process of having a lawsuit filed against Stabosz for defamation of character. Stabosz recently alleged on his Facebook page Friedman has control over decisions made by commissioners Mrozinski, a Republican, and Matias, a Democrat.
In response, Friedman said he’s simply reaching across party lines to get things done for the county and referred to Mrozinski at a public meeting last month citing a host of his legal accomplishments for inviting him back as county attorney.
La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney, in just his second month in office, has been on the losing end of some of the recent decisions made by his two other colleagues and has questioned Friedman about some of the controversial happenings.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Haney said public comment should not been screened even if people are offended by remarks because It’s a way of keeping things above board. "Having that transparency, even if it sometimes isn't a comfortable airing of grievance in public, there needs to be transparency. We can't have things occurring behind the scenes and when these things occur it's appropriate for them to be aired in public. The idea things that concern the public that are of public record should be taken off line or other things that’s disturbing to me and I don't think it's appropriate,” he said.
Haney said the rules for public comment, as presently written, allow people to be silenced. He said the rules should keep out things like profanity and vulgarity but not concerns people might want to voice.