Former Mayor Richard Acton was barred from speaking at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting and ultimately was escorted out by the police chief for refusing to give his address on a request-to-speak form.
Acton said Wednesday that he refused to comply with the longstanding city requirement “because I felt the Placentia City Council was violating my constitutional right to speak and the rights of others.”
Current Mayor George Ziegler defended the address requirement as “completely legal, acceptable and proper,” adding that City Atty. John Harper concurred in the council’s right to eject Acton. Harper was not available for comment Wednesday.
“He (Acton) had all the right in the world to speak,” Ziegler said Wednesday. “All he had to do is comply with city policies and procedures.”
Ziegler acknowledged that the city has had a history of requirements that served to limit public comment before the council.
Before 1980, a city ordinance required people addressing the council, commissions and boards to sign an oath declaring under penalty of prosecution that they would tell the truth. Challenges from at least one council member, residents and the Orange County chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union led to the dropping of that requirement.
“It was subsequently dropped because it was a little heavy-handed,” Ziegler said.
Last April, in one of his first actions as mayor, Ziegler dropped a policy requiring anyone who wished to address the council to submit a letter one week in advance. That policy had been adopted in December by then-Mayor Richard Buck. Now, Ziegler said, only residents seeking an immediate council action are required to file a letter one week in advance.
Ziegler said he views the requirement as “just something that helps maintain decorum, and it works.”
Acton, who served as mayor in 1981 and 1982 and was ousted in a bitter recall in 1982, said he will “consult authorities to see what my constitutional rights are” and “what I can do to enforce them.”