Loveland, Ohio – Mayor Mark Fitzgerald announced at the beginning of the May 23 Council meeting that he has instituted a “Zero tolerance policy” towards the public’s whispering or passing documents among themselves during meetings. He said it was because it was intentionally, “Preventing the audience from hearing or knowing the business of the body discussed.”

He further stated that a disruptive person waives their right to attend council meetings and the Council can remove the person from the meeting.

The Mayor was speaking on behalf of all of Council. None objected to the policy.

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  1. Can the Mayor pass an ordinance demanding the council members actually listen to the people speaking instead of staring at their phones during the entire open forum?

  2. Let me preface this by saying I just recently moved to Loveland, and have seen multiple articles from Loveland Magazine pop up. I am equally as amazed and dismayed by the apparent dysfunction in the municipal government as I am by the bias of this publication against our elected officials. So, I don’t support any side other than the truth here.

    That out of the way, I am very much confused by the mayor’s statement and speak up because of its implications on freedom of speech which has been so much under attack lately in our country.

    I could be mistaken, but, in his statement, the mayor appeared to reference this court case:

    In that case, it was the town trustees that were found to have disrupted an open meeting’s purpose by shuffling papers and whispering. Not the audience. The mayor does mention in the statement that members of the public body (i.e. coumcilmembers) are the ones who should not be whispering and shuffling papers. However, he then immediately pivots to audience disruption and seems to imply that the whispering and shuffling papers case applies to audience members. At best, it was a confusing and misleading statement that should be clarified at the earliest opportunity.
    At worst, it is a willful misstatement of a court’s ruling in an effort to lend legitimacy to a attempt to silence detractors.

    The whispering of councilmembers would prevent the public from participating in some of the content of the meeting. I do not at all see how the mayor could suggest that audience members could not whisper if done so discreetly and occaisionally.

    Above all, a statement like this by a mayor only tells me that my civic engagement is best applied in more productive forums at the state and federal level.

    • “All politics are local” …..attributed to many but certainly associated with the late Tip O’Neill

  3. The attempt to shut down speech can not be tolerated. Respect is important in meetings, but the Mayor’s statement at the beginning of the last council meeting disrespected the members of the public who were in attendance. Applause is part of public speech, as is laughter and sharing of information – a la passing papers. I urge council members to impress upon Mayor Fitzgerald that the public has the right to speak, to make presentations, and to react to what they hear. I also ask council members to remind Mayor Fitzgerald that the police are there for our safety and protection. They are not there to intervene in politics. I urge the public to stand up for the rights under the 1st amendment. None of these statements should be taken to mean that I encourage anyone to be disrespectful or disruptive. But we cannot allow one person, or a handful of people, to suppress participation in our government.

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