Today, the ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to Berea Mayor Stanley Trupo warning him to not continue his efforts to shut down the website of the Berea Town Forum because of criticism of himself and other Berea government officials.
The Berea Town Forum is a local citizens group that meets regularly to discuss issues of importance to Berea citizens. Much of its effort is spent trying to preserve the small town charm of Berea and to lobby against excessive commercial development. Such efforts have pitted them against Berea Mayor Stanley Trupo, whom the group maintains is too pro-development.
As the Berea Town Forum grew, it expanded to include a website (now defunct). Included on that website was a discussion page where interested people could post comments regarding local issues. Much of the material posted was criticism directed at local government officials, including Trupo.
According to a local newspaper, Trupo directed the Berea Law Director and the City Prosecutor to review taking legal action against those responsible for the website, saying that he "will not hesitate to conduct a full-scale investigation of the matter."
As a result of these threats by Mayor Trupo, the Forum shut down the discussion part of its website. Members of the group are now planning to re-open this portion of the website at the end of this week.
"Criticism of government officials is at the core of the First Amendment," said Gino Scarselli, Associate Legal Director for the ACLU of Ohio. "Mayor Trupo needs to realize that the Bill of Rights applies to all government officials, including those in Berea," added Scarselli.