O’burg residents sue mayor over Facebook access
OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - Four people who live in Ogdensburg are suing Mayor MIke Skelly, claiming Skelly blocked them from his Facebook page.
The four claim “the blocked users cannot view or participate in any discussions concerning the City business reflected in the Mayor’s posts” and because of that, their constitutional rights are being violated.
Contacted by 7 News Tuesday morning, Mayor Skelly had no comment.
The four - Cynthia Layng, Douglas Loffler, Brian Mitchell, and Angela McRoberts - claim in a federal lawsuit filed Friday in Plattsburgh that Skelly blocked each of them after they were critical of the mayor on his Facebook page.
Skelly’s “viewpoint-based exclusion of (the people suing) from his official Facebook profile filters the speech in that forum and causes a chilling effect for others from similarly expressing dissenting viewpoints,” according to the lawsuit.
They’re asking a judge to order Skelly to unblock them, and not block anyone else. They’re also seeking money.
Essentially, they claim Skelly uses his Facebook page as a place to discuss city business.
According to the lawsuit:
- In the case of Layng, in a discussion of a city council meeting, she used the word “idiots” to describe some of the people commenting. That prompted Skelly to block her.
- In the case of Loffler, he criticized Skelly’s leadership skills after Skelly published a Facebook post, stating he wanted blue light bulbs at the Ogdensburg fire department taken down. Those bulbs had been placed to honor an Ogdensburg city police officer who committed suicide. Skelly blocked him.
- In the case of Mitchell, he was blocked twice, once in November 2020 for making a “dissenting comment” and then - having convinced Skelly to unblock him - was blocked again in December when he questioned one of Skelly’s Facebook posts about the fire department.
- In the case of McRoberts, she was blocked after asking questions about city manager Stephen Jellie’s qualifications to be city manager.
The lawsuit claims other people - not named - have also been blocked.
Late Tuesday afternoon, City Manager Stephen Jellie issued the following statement:
The City of Ogdensburg will address the matter presented by the so-called “Citizen’s Watch Group” as it pertains to the Mayor when official notification is received from a court of jurisdiction; that has not yet occurred despite the rush by this so-called group to claim credit for the latest exploit to impede the progress of the city. It is unfortunate that a very small group of individuals continues to attempt the disruption of city government and to over throw an election they didn’t like the results of. Their action in the name of protecting the community and seeking transparency is a vailed (sic) attempt to hide the real agenda of drawing attention to fictional tales of corruption, wrong-doing and mismanagement. Their behavior in public, on social media and at city council meetings does not reflect citizens attempting to be heard; they are unprofessional, rude, foul-mouthed, intoxicated, invasive, threatening and intend only to create controversy so important business cannot be accomplished; these are not the acts of citizens.
Mayor Skelly’s administration is working tirelessly to ensure the survival of the city since defeating a fully dysfunctional administration that led the city to the brink of bankruptcy and once defeated they took hasty action to solidify irresponsible and unaffordable contracts with the Police and Fire Unions, all in an attempt to create a wedge between the new City Administration and its Unions, which it was successful in doing. The rhetoric filled actions of this group so-called “Citizen’s Watch” is shameless and none of it will be forgotten by the City electorate when it really matters. Mayor Skelly and the City Team remain focused on fully improving public safety, reducing taxes, advancing the local economy and providing world-class recreational facilities for the youth. The revival of the City started some time ago and the City calls on this small group to cease the self-serving, mob-like behavior that only serves to stall progress and join the progressive efforts needed to improve the community for future generations.
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