October 20, 2021

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Should elected officers be censured for offensive posts online? A West Michigan county board votes no

MUSKEGON, MI – A Muskegon County elected official’s derogatory online posts is building probable outcomes a group discussion.

Primarily based on the responses at a assembly of the county commissioners this week, the most important problem is: Ought to elected officials be formally reprimanded for their on the internet posts?

The remarks from the public and commissioners, moreover the split vote itself, outlined two sights: A person’s totally free speech legal rights compared to a neighborhood leader’s responses representing a community.

“In the United States of America, we all have the proper of freedom of speech and expression,” reported Commissioner Kim Cyr. “We may possibly not generally concur with each individual other, but I consider that to censure persons for their viewpoints or expressions would be harmful to this freedom of speech.

“If we begin to censure persons or to contact their speech ‘hate speech,’ I believe that we’re going down a road that none of us needs to go down. I do not want to get to the location in this nation exactly where we censure others just since we disagree with what they say.”

Commissioner Charles Nash argued that a county commissioner has a duty, as an elected public official, to act appropriately both in-person and on the web.

“If he was just an individual in the community, no 1 would care,” Nash claimed. “But he is a leader in this local community that is intended to stand up and depict this county. And that is not the representation that most of the people in Muskegon County wishes to see.”

The Muskegon County commissioner who built derogatory Facebook posts, Zach Lahring, about a fellow Republican commissioner, Bob Scolnik, did not end up remaining formally reprimanded by the board.

Lahring, who also is chair of the Muskegon County Republican Celebration, manufactured two Facebook posts that some discovered offensive previous thirty day period about Scolnik, including a single that referred to as him “a small queer with a shoe fetish.”

On Tuesday, July 13, the Muskegon County Board of Commissioners debated a motion to censure Lahring for his Facebook posts. A censure is a non-binding formal expression of disapproval of a person’s actions – it is not the similar as to “censor” an individual, which is to suppress words and phrases that are found unacceptable.

Several commissioners expressed powerful disapproval with the disrespectful nature of Lahring’s posts, but not necessarily the censure. Some commissioners and Muskegon County inhabitants explained Lahring must be in a position to say what he would like on his have, personal Facebook page.

The board in the end voted towards the censure motion, 5-4, during Tuesday’s human companies committee meeting.

Democrat Susie Hughes joined Republican Commissioners Malinda Pego, Doug Brown, Kim Cyr and Lahring in voting versus the censure motion. Scolnik together with Democrats Charles Nash, Rillastine Wilkins and Hovey-Wright voted to approve it.

Linked: Muskegon County board votes against censuring GOP commissioner Zach Lahring for ‘harassing’ on the web posts

Some commissioners and inhabitants felt the issue was a 1st Amendment issue, and that censuring Lahring would limit his freedom of speech.

Commissioner Doug Brown known as Lahring’s posts “very disturbing,” but finally concluded that the posts did not warrant a “meaningful censure.”

Brown stated voters really should make a decision if Lahring really should experience outcomes for his actions, not the board.

“I think this resolution is likely to be up to the voters,” he explained. “This is distraction. The purpose ought to be for absolutely everyone in this area is to work on the betterment of Muskegon County. I did not volunteer my time or go for this position for this type of action.”

“This is up to the voters,” Brown claimed. “I really don’t condone what he claimed, but there are repercussions for his actions, and that is likely to be up to the voters of Muskegon County.”

Scolnik, who also serves as the county board chairman, explained the board has a responsibility to get in touch with out inappropriate conduct of commissioners.

“When people today say it is not our business to censure someone, I disagree,” he explained. “Somebody requirements to stand up and say a little something.”

Commissioner Susie Hughes, who was the outlying vote among her fellow Democrats, said she could not vote to censure Lahring due to the fact she felt no one particular experienced given him an opportunity to transform his habits initially.

“I set the blame on each a single of us, for the reason that if we experienced a difficulty with what was currently being posted on somebody’s Fb webpage, we should talk to them,” she claimed. “Nobody gave him an opportunity to improve, and nobody gave him an possibility to straighten out what he carried out.”

Lahring did not back down from his social media posts, contacting his own Fb web page “satire.” He stated he has offended all kinds of people on his webpage, irrespective of political sights, race or history.

“My Fb web page is my business,” Lahring mentioned. “My Facebook description on the leading says I am an equivalent chance offender. I have offended Republicans, Democrats, whites, Blacks, Asians, I’ve almost certainly offended everybody. There’s nobody I have not offended at one particular position or another, and I will almost certainly continue on to do so.”

The proposal to censure Lahring was to start with launched by Commissioner Marcia Hovey-Wright during the board’s June 29 meeting, and the board voted to ship it to the human services committee on Tuesday for thing to consider.

The proposal called Lahring’s Facebook posts “disrespectful” to Scolnik and “damaging” to Muskegon County.

Lahring’s June 23 Fb article referencing Scolnik examine, “Who understood the minor queer experienced a shoe fetish.” The post integrated shots of Scolnik dressed in a blond wig for a charity event and holding a pink shoe from the Overlook Michigan competitors for which he was a choose.

Hovey-Wright mentioned Lahring’s posts have been “denigrating to the full LGBTQ+ group,” and that commissioners experienced heard from some folks who said they were being canceling vacations to Muskegon as a consequence.

In excess of a dozen Muskegon County inhabitants spoke out both of those for and from the censure motion throughout general public comment Tuesday. Numerous inhabitants on the two sides of the challenge argued that the circumstance was divisive – but some assumed Lahring’s posts were divisive, whilst many others assumed the divisiveness stemmed from the censure movement.

Some citizens agreed that commissioners must not be held liable for what they put up on their individual Facebook web pages. Muskegon resident Tammy Barnhart referred to as the censure movement “completely outrageous.”

“Who the hell are you, the frickin’ Nazis?” Barnhart said through community remark. “You’ve bought to be kidding me. You had been elected to do a occupation, we did not elect you for 24/7. I never care what you do on your personal individual time. What people today do on their personal time is their possess company.”

Muskegon resident Ken Hildebrand said censuring general public officials for their private Fb page is “a slippery slope.”

“You’re opening up a can of worms,” Hildebrand mentioned. “It appears to be to me that persons decide and decide on what they want to censor, centered on how they come to feel and what they’re offended by, and it’s a slippery slope. And it is something that I would warning you on, for the reason that at the time you went down this street, ultimately it’ll appear back to haunt you.”

Carol Voigts, of Laketon Township, argued general public officers have a responsibility to symbolize their constituents on all platforms, even online.

“When you choose on a job like a commissioner or senator or consultant or any variety of general public factor, there is a sense of decorum that you should abide by,” she explained. “He has a obligation to be equipped to keep some form of decorum and it’s not about cost-free speech, it is about the form of place of work that he’s keeping, and that he requirements to be accountable for his responses.”

Fruitport resident Ellen Beal reported Lahring’s posts had been “an embarrassment” to the county. She said voting to censure Lahring would mail a potent information that all people and enterprises are welcome in Muskegon County.

“I am asking commissioners to converse up and assist the voiceless in our community, the marginalized groups, minority folks, the LGBT community, that also have been attacked needlessly by Commissioner Lahring’s ‘jokes,’” Beal explained.

Much more on MLive:

County official who shown, wore Trump hat all through meetings concentration of complaint

Racist or ‘cancel culture’ satire? Muskegon County commissioner’s Facebook posts create debate

Muskegon County board chair requests investigation into ‘harassing’ online posts by fellow GOP commissioner