To The Daily Sun,
Alton public officials abuses of my constitutional right of free speech is out of control!
Criticizing public officials for their poor performance as public officials during times and locations established by them for public comment should never end in the citizen being arrested simply because the public official does not like the criticism, but this is the exact course of action Alton officials have chosen to silence me.
I have been placed in handcuffs exactly three times in my life. All three times were at the hands of Alton Police Chief Ryan Health — twice at the direction of the Board of Selectmen and once at the direction of the town moderator, Mr. Mark Northridge. All three times I was handcuffed and removed from the meetings was for the exact same reason: The public officials did not like the criticism of their job performance.
The first time I was ever placed in handcuffs occurred in February, 2015 at the Alton Board of Selectmen's meeting, when then chairman Loring Carr ordered Chief Heath to remove me after I stated, “Every time I show up here, it is my fervent hope that I find you folks have resigned, but you continue to show an unwillingness to take responsibility for your actions as selectmen and resign.”
I was subsequently removed from the building, booked and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct. After a court hearing on the matter, Judge James Carroll dismissed the charges and wrote my arrest was “content-based censorship as the defendant was acting within the very rules promulgated by the board as well within his constitutional rights under the U.S. and N.H. Constitutions.” Subsequently, I filed a lawsuit against Alton for violating my Constitutional Rights, eventually settling the case out of court for $42,500.
Sadly, Alton officials apparently learned nothing from the court’s decision or the lawsuit settlement because they have now violated my freedom of speech rights two more times since that court decision was handed down and I cashed the settlement check.
On February 8, 2017 my constitutional right of free speech right was violated again and I found myself back in handcuffs for the second time in my life, while speaking at the Alton Deliberative Session. Mr. Mark Northridge, the Alton town moderator, ordered Chief Heath to remove me from the deliberative session and ordered that I be fined one dollar because I stated, “If Alton’s town attorney, James Sessler (who was seated next to the moderator on the dais), reviewed the town warrant articles prior to this deliberative session, he is incompetent.” I made my statement because Alton’s warrant articles contained typographical errors of great significance, to include many articles misidentified and containing two different identifiers. This was confusing to the voters and required amendments to correct as well as the fact the town had already published, at great expense, the articles for the voters to consider.
Just a few days later, on February 22, my freedom of speech was violated once again while speaking during public comment time at the Alton selectmen's meeting. And yes, Chief Heath was there to handcuff me for the third time in my life. My crime? You may have guessed by now I was criticizing the selectmen once again for their poor behavior. This time my criticism concerned Alton’s ambulance service, and the fact that for years Alton selectmen, through a third party, has been sending the poorest of the poor in Alton to collections over unpaid ambulance charges. The kicker is the Alton ambulance has always been a “free service” for Alton residents! That, and the fact that Alton selectmen have no record of any policies ever authorizing anyone to establish ambulance billing fees or to send residents to collections! This is unacceptable behavior by the town's officials.
As it stands today, my trial is scheduled for August 1 at 9 a.m. in Laconia District Court. I am charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and two counts of resisting arrest. I look forward to taking the stand in my defense and look forward to hearing the testimony of Alton officials. The bullying, the intimidation, the arrests and violations of my freedom of speech by Alton’s public officials must end. These people are not above the law! I hope many concerned citizens will be in attendance. We all have a stake in this.
Jeffrey T. Clay
- Written by Mike Mortensen
- Category: Letters
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