WHAT: Summary of September 6 2023 (1 day later due to Labor Day) Foutain Hills Town Council Meeting
Free speech Issue or promoting public safety?
The major issue at this meeting was consideration of a proposed revision of the Town’s Ethics Policy. In recent months, there have been instances of some Councilmembers making comments that were interpreted by others as being derogatory, demeaning, or otherwise negative in nature. Several residents of Fountain Hills have filed ethics complaints against some Councilmembers (notably the more conservative ones). This requires an investigation by Town staff and the diversion of resources to do so. Many, if not all, of the ethics complaints are considered to be frivolous and thus a waste of town resources. The revised ethics policy was an attempt to address these concerns. Multiple Fountain Hills residents objected to the proposed revision, either by submitting their opinions via the Town website or by voicing their opinions in person at Call to the Public. Opposition was almost unanimous. The primary objection was that the very subjective descriptions of what would be considered a violation of the ethics policy and that it would unduly restrict Councilmembers’ ability to speak freely. There was also opposition to the institution of a proposed fee for submission of an ethics complaint; it would limit citizens’ ability to voice their opinion. After extensive debate and approval of a lengthy amendment, the policy was approved (by a 4 to 3 vote). This resulted in the exclusion of almost all of the proposed revised language that had generated widespread opposition. (Councilmembers Friedel, Toth, Kalivianakis, & Skillicorn voted to approve; Councilmembers McMahon, Grzybowski, & Mayor Dickey voted to reject.)
This proposed policy was broadly considered to be an attempt to stifle free speech and the ability to voice dissenting viewpoints. This is especially relevant in light of what has been observed in many other cases in recent years, with government appearing to restrict speech as “offensive,’ “misinformation, ” or “domestic terrorism.” It illustrates the ongoing necessity of citizens remaining vigilant at all levels of government and maintaining the willingness to actively express their concerns and objections.
CALL TO ACTION:
- Write letters to the editor to the Fountain Hills Independent on issues facing the Town. 300 words or less to email@example.com
- Attend Council meetings to learn & show your support. 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at 5:30 PM fountainhillsaz.gov/673/Meeting-Agendas
- Express your views – send emails to the Mayor& Councilmembers.
www.fountainhillsaz.gov/308/Town-Council or firstname.lastname@example.org