McHenry Co. (ECWd) -
Having been fortunate enough to travel all over the world while in the service I learned the value of our system of government, a Constitutional Republic. One that has the most protected rights to ensure we stay free, our right to free speech.
Laws have meaning, as does their application. Over the last 7 years, we have learned more about our local government laws and the proper application than I ever imagined. We have also learned how rabid people can become when they "think" they know the law and how it is applied. Some of those same people are writing stories with headlines containing just enough truth to insight the ignorant into believing a false narrative, thus the fake news label gets applied.
Sadly, when a headline along with a short snippet of the NWH article is in black bold 24 font print, the focus is on that headline, not the gray on white background 18 font that discloses a slightly more accurate message.
"Highway commissioner uses political dollars to spread message on Facebook"
Yes, the Algonquin Township Road Commissioner used his campaign money on Facebook to push a narrative of his choosing. It's called free speech, not news. Sadly, the primary headline led people to believe he used public money as the paper used his official title that led them to believe something not true.
In an effort to bolster the reporter's clear bias against this Road Commissioner ( I think that bias goes both ways), he reached out to Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, a partner in the Ancel Glink law firm, for comment.
According to the NWH, this is what she had to say:
"Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, a lawyer who co-wrote the handbook for Illinois’ township officials, even characterized Gasser’s message on the marquee as “political speech” and said Friday that his antics constituted an improper and illegal use of government property."
"Characterized" Gasser's message on the marquee as "political speech" and that his antics constituted an improper and illegal use of government property.
According to all the research, we have come up with since the fake news rally began, political speech includes discussions of candidates, the form of government, how government should be run, and any other discussion of the political process. Although there is a ton of information available, this link appears to be about as concise as it gets.
The message posted on a Road District sign clearly was not political speech as it was not directed in any way to anything government related. We find it hard to call it anything other than one man's opinion, which he is entitled to under his first amendment rights.
The reporter goes on to claim the attorney said the antics constituted an "improper and illegal" use of government property, although neither the reporter or the attorney cite any law to support such a claim. It appears based on the attorney's claimed comments that she may not have been made aware of all the facts related to the sign and its use. Not an uncommon tactic when you want a certain opinion to support a narrative.
It is our understanding the sign in question can be used by any member of the public, which the Highway Commissioner is, in fact, a member of the public.
"The Township does not necessarily support or endorse the content of the messages on the sign. The Township offers the sign as a public forum to be used by the community."
So the question we have, why was it illegal for Andrew Gasser to post his message on a sign that is there as a public forum to be used by the community?
Considering the flurry of articles from the NWH after the message was put up, it would appear the content of the message is more of a concern than anything else as we have never seen another article on "sign content" on this sign prior to this event. Someone didn't like the message.
Right about now those who took issue with the use of the sign are screaming he is a public official getting paid by our tax dollars. Yep, he sure is, and the message on the sign was put up after his normal workday, on his own time.
Why is that important?
If a member of the public wants to use the sign for their message, the taxpayers are paying for it each and every time because a person on the clock is the one posting the message, but to date, we have not heard a peep about that being a concern nor any claims it would be illegal.
The attorney is also quoted as saying:
“This speech is not government speech,” said Krafthefer, an Ancel Glink attorney who co-authored the “Township Officials of Illinois Laws and Duties Handbook.” “That’s an improper use of public property.”
Nope, it is not government speech and according to the sign-up sheet it does not have to be. It says it is a public forum for the community to use. In fact, considering all the hysteria taking place and the media frenzy over the message, I would say the sign's purpose as a public forum has performed as expected.
We are not sure how the use of the sign constitutes an improper use of public property as claimed by the attorney unless they are taking the position no member of the public can use the sign and only Township Road District information can be put on it.
We suspect the attorney was not made aware of the sign-up sheet and its language that clearly points to this sign being there for the public to be used as a public forum. Do we need to define public forum? Might do some well to read some info on that, along with the case law it points to found at this link.
The NWH reporter wanted to know why Gasser used the sign to criticize the "free press".
I think the answer to his question was in the message on the sign?
May we suggest that since the sign was there for the use by the public as a public forum, he has the same constitutional rights as every other member of the community that wants to post a message? Are his free speech rights any less important than any other member of the community? And yes, he has free speech rights in this case as he was not on the clock.
The social media legal experts have tried to make the argument that since he is a salaried official he used public funds to put up the message. As we pointed out before, he was not on the clock and if such a position is to be applied, each and every time a citizen gets their message installed, that too would be the use of taxpayer funds to post a private message.
Speach is our most protected right and to see the level of ignorance on the proper application of that right shows us how bad our civic's education is in this state. If the use of a government-owned sign to express an opinion is illegal, then why isn't the use of a government podium illegal where similar personal opinions are expressed routinely in this country?
We urge everyone to take a deep breath and first take some time to read up on our First Amendment rights and how they apply to our freedom.
What I expect to happen now is since the public is properly informed that the sign is there for the free use by the public, the extremist, who also have free speech rights, will come out in droves to have their message put up on the sign.
Since we as a society have decayed to a point where we call free speech a crime, I suspect the sign will become a thing of the past as the extremist will attempt to demand any all messages be posted.
If it stays, may we suggest a stronger set of rules to apply to its use because, without it, this will become a free-for-all dog-pile.
It does appear that the message posted has stirred a public interest that may well be a good thing. There is nothing better than a debate on the issues and from reading the comments being posted, a lot of people have taken issue with the local reporting as well as the elected official's actions.
Several things can come from this event. If the reporting is lacking, people will cancel their subscriptions. If that happens, and the paper can see the problem, they fix it and the people will be better informed. If the majority agree with the elected official's actions, he could get reelected. If they don't, they vote him out.
That is how a Constitutional Republic works!