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Opinion Letters Attorney clarifies issue of First Amendment rights

I feel compelled to clarify some comments that are attributed to me in the July 12, 2012, edition of The Macon County News, specifically those relating to the legality of censuring an elected official.

Mayors, and indeed all elected officials, are not stripped of their First Amendment rights upon their election to office. Nor is any one elected official constrained to agree with and speak in conformity with the consensus of his or her board. At the same time, elected boards have the ability to adopt resolutions relating to anything in their purview, to vote to express an opinion on any such matter (or to not express anything at all). And, no single official speaks for the entire board, unless so empowered by vote of the board.

 

In view of all this, Mayor Collins was acting within his First Amendment rights in sending a letter to the Eastern Band of Cherokee. By the same token, the Board of Aldermen was acting within its rights in adopting a resolution officially disagreeing with the Mayor's letter (the “censure”).

John F. Henning, Jr. — Attorney for the Town of Franklin





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