HANCEVILLE, Ala. — A newspaper publisher who claims he was forcibly removed when he tried to ask a question at a City Council meeting has filed suit against Hanceville over the removal.
The suit filed in federal court on behalf of Edmund Flaig said a police officer removed him from a meeting on March 1, 2005, after he asked a question, which the public is not allowed to do during regular meetings.
The suit by Flaig, editor and publisher of The Trinity News, alleges slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress, interference with business relationships and a violation of his First Amendment rights.
“It’s a simple case,” Flaig’s attorney, William J. Freeman, said in a phone interview with The Cullman Times, which reported on the suit on Feb. 15. “It all comes down to the rights of the press to public information.”
In response to Flaig’s suit, the council went into executive session for 10 minutes during its Feb. 13 meeting, citing impending litigation, the Times reported. Upon returning, Councilman Hubert Jones made a motion for city attorney Edward Coey to file a countersuit. That countersuit is apparently to be filed against Flaig.
Flaig told the Cullman paper in a previous story that he spoke up in the March 1 meeting just to clarify if the council was selling one garbage truck or two.
“The officer grabbed me under my left arm and pulled me off my chair and tells me I’m going to jail,” he said. Flaig was not arrested.
Hanceville Police Officer Christopher Pearce said complaints had been made that Flaig’s “loud comments and talking during the meetings caused others to be unable to hear the meeting.” He said he was instructed not to let the March 1 meeting be disrupted. Police Chief Craig Richie has said Pearce used “appropriate” force after he “asked Flaig to quiet down nine times during the meeting.”
Under an ordinance passed Oct. 4, 2004, public comment is allowed during council work sessions but not regular meetings.