Sunday, October 16, 2016

1st Amendment Shredding to Silence Petrelis at City Hall

A free speech showdown takes places on Monday, October 17 starting at 1:30 pm at City Hall in Room 416 when the Ethics Commission meets. I'll be attempting to exercise my First Amendment rights by holding up a Petrelis for BART Board sign and offering my thoughts during public comment.

Without any public scrutiny and certainly no agendizing at a commission meeting, one person, Jessica Blome, deputy director for enforcement at the commission created these Meeting Decorum guidelines:

"The Ethics Commission encourages and promotes integrity in government by education and example and is committed to treating all staff, members of the public, and colleagues with courtesy, respect, objectivity, and fairness. ...

"In accord with the Board of Supervisors’ Rules of Order 1.3.1, signs, regardless of content or message, are strictly prohibited. This prohibition does not apply to clothing, which includes signage pinned to clothing, messages displayed on clothing, pins, hats, or buttons. If the Chair is unable to obtain voluntary compliance, he may seek assistance from the Sheriff’s Deputy on call."

However, there is no statute granting the Board the privilege of infringing upon my free speech rights. Saying speech via signage worn on clothing is allowed and but a hand-held poster is unconstitutional and childish.

Here is what the City Attorney's Office has to say about actual laws stopping me from holding a sign during a hearing, which we, the taxpayers, are funding:

 "Even if Mr. Petrelis had done so, there still was no violation because the City Attorney's Office was not and is not in possession of a written policy prohibiting political signs in hearing rooms, other than the policies already provided to Mr. Petrelis by the Sheriff."

Well, now isn't that special! But it's not all. Speaking of the Sheriff, one Vicki Hennessy, she writes:

"I have reviewed the security items I have and do not see a prohibition. The only thing mentioned is, 'Signs mounted on sticks or poles are not permitted in City Hall. … Small paper or or cardboard signs no larger than (11” x 17”) that can be carried by hand are allowed.'"

There you have it. The City Attorney and the Sheriff both say there are no laws keeping me from displaying a Petrelis for BART sign at City Hall meetings and on taxpayer-funded SFGovTV.

Count on objections from the ethics commissioners tomorrow. They did their damnedest to silence me without any legal authority at the Sept 26th meeting, called me names and constantly interrupted my public comment time as if the proceeding were taking place in their imaginary courtroom.

My campaign sign assuredly appeared on City-funded TV and other media platforms.

Tune in to SFGovTV tomorrow and watch me go up against the ethically-challenged San Francisco Ethics Commission.

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