Judge rules for MissMarples and against Beachwood
Dear Beachwood Residents,
For those of you following the embarrassing MissMarples debacle or care about free speech and the First Amendment, yesterday Judge Andrew Santoli issued his ruling against the City of Beachwood and it’s Police Chief. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who paid attention in 7th grade civics class and understands that the 1st Amendment assures you are allowed to express criticism and critical opinions of anyone, ESPECIALLY public officials “on a matter of public concern”.
The Judge’s reasons, which were obvious to everyone but a few City officials, was the MissMarples email (click here to read actual email) and Facebook comments in question, were opinions, which can’t be defamatory and are 1st Amendment protected speech. The judge went further in his analysis of the MissMarples email pointing out that “the speaker was reaching out to his/her elected officials to make his/her voice heard on a matter of public concern”.
Our city leader’s unapologetic response to someone trying to make elected officials aware of serious and legitimate issues/complaints our rank-and-file police officers have with the Police Department leadership, validates why anyone with common sense would use anonymity to express criticism of a City of Beachwood official.
The most embarrassing and troubling part of all of this is that our law director openly admitted in a Council meeting on video (click here to watch the short video), that one of the goals behind all of this was to deter and chill others from using their first amendment protected speech rights in a way that City officials don’t approve of. These are the things you are not supposed to say out loud, but he did, and the Mayor and four Council members could no longer pretend they didn’t know what the real goal, purpose and intent behind all of this was, but didn’t have any issues with this. In fact, to this day, the Mayor and these four Councilmembers have made no attempt to hide that they believe it is a crime, or at least should be, to express criticism of City officials, which they don’t like, agree with or approve of, and that First Amendment protections don’t apply when the protected speech is critical of them.
Sadly, I imagine there won’t be any accountability for the city officials who took the city down this path, the same way there was no accountability for the city officials that fought to keep the public and media from knowing of the existence of video footage of a bad police shooting (click here to see the footage of the police shooting city official hid for 13 months). In that instance, none of the culpable City employees or elected officials were fired, removed or called on to step down, nor did any of them have to contribute a single dollar to the $500k and growing amount their poor judgement and decisions has cost the city so far.
It is foolish to expect that this type of stuff won’t continue when we have made it clear that if it does, the city employees and elected officials whose actions, decisions and judgement are responsible for it, won’t face any downside or accountability.
You can listen to the short 2 minute clip from the "Today in Ohio" podcast on 4/24/23, where Chris Quinn, the President and Editor of the Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com, and Leila Atassi, head of their Public Interest and Advocacy Team, provide their thoughts on Judge Santoli’s ruling against the City of Beachwood and their “thin skinned Police Chief”, by clicking here.
You can read the Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com coverage of this issue by clicking here.
You can read the Cleveland Jewish New's coverage of this issue by clicking here.