Democrats in the city of Troy have already proven to have a complete disregard for the cherished right of a citizen to cast their own vote. Now it seems they are hell-bent on stifling another fundamental American right - the right to free speech.
At a City Council meeting on Thursday night, First Amendment rights were ushered out the door when Democrat Council President, Lynn Kopka, refused to listen to an opinion that may have dissented from her own.
On the Troy City Council web page, meetings are described as being open to the public, and that citizens will have a forum "where you can address the Council members and briefly speak your mind on any topic pertinent to city government."
Kopka herself, sports a "likes Freedom of Speech" update on her own Facebook page.
So when Troy Republican Committee Chairman, James Gordon, took to the podium to discuss a "topic pertinent to city government", there should have been a minimal number of complaints.
And initially, no umbrage was taken. When Gordon started off on an issue in which he actually praised the council - voting against pay raises - nobody spoke up. But when he turned to the topic of a sitting councilman, who recently accepted a plea deal in the voter fraud case--and may yet face future voter fraud charges--and who admitted to being a convicted felon, things turned dicey.
Gordon had written a letter in which he requested that Councilman Kevin McGrath step down from his public post, in lieu of the recent embarrassing revelations. When he started reading his request to the council, Lynn Kopka took the extraordinary step of trampling on his free speech rights, gavelling him out of order and demanding that he simply hand her the letter.
The letter below contains nothing out of the ordinary. It gives a clear and concise argument for why McGrath should step down. In the letter, Gordon sites specific testimony between the defense attorney and McGrath:
Question by Premo: “And you said a few minutes ago that you realize you committed crimes in this case. Is that correct?”
Answer by McGrath: “I have been told, yes.”
Council President Lynn Kopka
This candid admission according to Gordon, "is in clear violation of the Troy City Charter due to his “disorderly conduct” as outlined in Article VII, subsection C-31."
That portion of the charter reads:
The City Council shall determine the rules of its proceedings; may compel the attendance of any regular or regularly called special meeting of Council members absent therefrom; may declare the seat of any Council members inexcusably absent from three successive regular meetings to be vacant; and may expel a Council member for disorderly conduct or misfeasance in office. No seat shall be declared vacant and no Council member shall be expelled until the delinquent Council member has had an opportunity to be heard in his/her own defense.
A taxpaying citizen of the city of Troy making a formal request to remove a council member who is in violation of the city charter seems pertinent to most. Perhaps more importantly, the concerns voiced by James Gordon are all valid concerns of many residents of Troy, as dozens of community members have contacted him personally to find out why McGrath is still allowed to serve. There is a demand for answers here whether Kopka or McGrath want to admit it.
Video of the incident can be seen below, with the relevant portion beginning at 28:33.
As Gordon begins reading his letter, McGrath can be seen sitting to the left of the viewer's point of view, and is seen motioning to Kopka at 30:26 to cut the speaker off. Kopka dutifully does his bidding, and responds by interrupting Gordon saying, "Jim, I'd like to remind you there's no personal attacks..." Gordon responds that, "This is a statement of fact, not a personal attack."
Facts, as they say, are stubborn things. More stubborn however was Kopka's insistence on cutting Gordon off.
At this point, McGrath himself added insult to injury saying, "It's a little early for the silly season, Jim."
After some cross-talk, Gordon asks if he can continue and again assures the Council that there are no personal attacks. One council member is heard asking for Gordon to simply hand over the letter, assuring that the people in attendance would not hear his thoughts and concerns.
Shortly thereafter, Kopka interrupts the speech again with her gavel, and calls the statement "out of order". Another person is heard saying that he may have crossed legal boundaries, though it is unclear what legal boundaries can be crossed when exercising one's right to free speech.
Kopka eventually demands the letter from Gordon and turns off his microphone.
Why any of this was considered so offensive that it would have to be censored can only be understood by Kopka herself. To the casual observer, there can be only one explanation. Kopka and McGrath do not want the criminal history of a currently serving member and representative of the city as a matter of public record.
At the time of this printing, e-mails to the City Council and Mayor Lou Rosamilia have gone unanswered. Fellow Councilmember Ken Zalewski however, voiced his opinion on Facebook saying, "At last night's City Council meeting, Troy residents James Gordon and Jim de Seve were prevented from exercising their free speech rights. I disagree strongly with the Council President's decision to gavel them out of order, and I offered my own thoughts on this subject."
Last month, we also called on the immediate resignation of Mr. McGrath based on a newly revealed history of felony drug charges, and more importantly his latest role in the voter fraud scandal.
At the trial, Premo pressed McGrath about his criminal background. He also confronted him with a stack of absentee ballots that were not part of Smith's case, but showed what Premo suggested were other forged ballots handled personally by McGrath.
Yet McGrath continues to make light of these incidents, calling Gordon out on initiating the 'silly season' for wanting to address them publicly.
McGrath for his part, has a propensity to crack jokes in the midst of very serious matters. During the voter fraud trial, he cracked wise about his inability to turn a profit selling drugs (proven untrue), the same crime for which he had been convicted. While most would have hung their heads in shame, McGrath laughed it off, prompting an apology from the judge in the case.
But the reality here is that the joke is squarely being played on the residents of the city of Troy. This joke is not vaguely amusing, it is a practical joke gone horribly awry - the career of Kevin McGrath.
McGrath's history is too checkered to ignore. It needs to be addressed by the City Council today. From drug deals to plea deals, his record is a blight on Troy politics specifically, and New York politics in general.
Because of this incident, Council President Lynn Kopka needs to issue a public apology not only to James Gordon, but the entire city of Troy. Until she takes this necessary and appropriate action, the residents of Troy will always wonder if they can trust their elected officials to hear their voice, and if they too will be censored for the simple act of speaking up.
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