By: Joe Strupp
The Business Journal of Youngstown, Ohio, which has been battling Mayor George McKelvey’s ban on city employees talking to the twice-monthly paper, finally took legal action with a lawsuit Thursday that accuses the mayor of violating the paper’s First Amendment rights.
The paper filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, asserting the newspaper’s rights were being violated by McKelvey and the city of Youngstown. “The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the mayor’s ban on city employees talking to The Business Journal about any city business,” the paper said in a statement. “It seeks a preliminary injunction to prohibit McKelvey from enforcing the policy until the court decides the merits of the case.”
“The mayor’s conduct is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment rights of The Business Journal and our reporters and amounts to nothing more than an attempt to silence the newspaper and deny the public information to which it is otherwise entitled,” Publisher Andrea Wood added in a statement.
In a letter dated Feb. 3, McKelvey notified Wood that he had forbidden all city employees to speak with Business Journal reporters about any city business.
McKelvey could not be reached Thursday, but in comments to E&P earlier this month, he hinted that the ban resulted from his belief that the paper had been reporting unfairly on his administration. “If someone in my business deems a reporter to be untrustworthy or irresponsible, they have the discretionary authority not to speak with them,” he said then, declining to cite specific examples of such reporting.
McKelvey’s letter followed a recent court order requiring the city to pay attorney’s fees incurred by The Business Journal in a previous lawsuit challenging restrictions on public records, which the paper won.
A similar lawsuit filed by The Sun of Baltimore, which challenged a directive from Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich ordering state employees not to speak with two Sun reporters, was dismissed by a judge last week.