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Ogdensburg will defend mayor being sued from blocking constituents on Facebook

In terms of precedent, public officials have been ordered not to block citizens.
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In response to a federal lawsuit involving the mayor’s Facebook page, the city of Ogdensburg has announced that it will defend Mayor Mike Skelly.

The lawsuit brought last month by four residents of Ogdensburg claims he banned them from his Facebook page. The allegation by Cynthia Layng, Douglas Loffler, Brian Mitchell, and Angela McRoberts claims that Skelly blocked them after they posted controversial comments on his Facebook page.

It says that “Skelly’s viewpoint-based exclusion of (the people suing) from his official Facebook profile filters the speech in that forum and causes a chilling effect for others from similarly expressing dissenting viewpoints.”

According to the residents, they had been deprived of their constitutional rights as “the blocked users cannot view or participate in any discussions concerning the City business reflected in the Mayor’s posts.” As of Friday, the city and the mayor had hired Coughlin & Gerhart to represent them “in the matter brought against it by a small group of local government disruptors.”

Additionally, other persons, whose names are not listed in the lawsuit, have also been blocked. The four residents, however, want a judge to order Skelly to unblock them, and not to block anyone else; they claim that Skelly posts city business on his Facebook page. The group is also seeking money.

The City Manager, Stephen Jellie stated that “The City will defend itself and the Mayor vigorously against these charges and remains confident that all its actions taken since January 2020 are in the best interest of the entire city, its taxpayers and residents and more important they uphold the law.”

In a full statement, the manager continued:

“For months this group has been seeking a ‘silver bullet’ to force the resignation or removal of the Mayor and Majority Councilors to no avail. First a ‘conversation’ between the Mayor and an outside attorney was their reason for him to be removed; the mayor prevailed. Next was changes to the city charter that restored accountability and efficiency to the organization were ‘illegal’; the mayor prevailed. Then, this group was going to sue the city for not holding a public referendum on a topic not allowed by NY State Law: the mayor prevailed. Most recently this small group of disruptors rallied support and raised money for what they called “’the moment we have all been waiting for’ as they purported that an arbitrator’s decision concerning an employment matter constituted the removal of the Mayor; the mayor prevailed.

The City and its elected and appointed officers will not be intimidated by the ridiculous calls for boycotts against city businesses and individuals that support change nor will it allow favored employee labor unions to control the city’s financial future. This behavior is not that of citizenry voicing concern and participating in government, it is simply weak attempts to instill fear, create anxiety and disrupt progress in a city that needs drastic change in order to survive and ultimately revive.”

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