ACLU Warns Ohio Mayor Not to Stifle Speech on Local Citizen Group's Website

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
August 12, 1999 12:00 am

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CLEVELAND — The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today sent a letter to Berea Mayor Stanley Trupo, warning him to cease efforts to shut down a website critical of him and other city officials.

The website is hosted by the Berea Town Forum, a group of local citizens that meets regularly to discuss important civic issues. Much of the group’s efforts are focused on preserving the small town charm of Berea and lobbying against excessive commercial development. Such efforts have pitted them against the Mayor, who the group says is too pro-development.

The Town Forum web site, at, included a discussion page where visitors could post comments regarding local issues. Much of the material posted was criticism directed at local government officials, including Trupo.

The ACLU said the mayor’s threats of legal action in response to the online criticism resulted in an unconstitutional “chilling effect” on the citizen group.

According to a local newspaper, Trupo directed the city’s legal counsel and prosecutor to review taking legal action against those responsible for the website, saying that he would not hesitate to “conduct a full-scale investigation of the matter.”

As a result of these public threats, the Forum shut down the discussion part of its website. Members of the group are now planning to re-open this portion of the website by the end of this week.

“Criticism of government officials is at the core of the First Amendment,” said Gino Scarselli, Associate Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio. “Mayor Trupo needs to realize that the Bill of Rights applies to all government officials, including those in Berea.”

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