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Wroge Accuses City Attorney of Violating Public’s Free Speech Rights

The city attorney apologized for offending anyone, but denied any wrongdoing.

said Tuesday that he was ashamed of the way city attorney handled the public during , alleging she took away free speech rights.

The regarding the proposed zoning change to the land being sought to develop the . , however, many residents still showed up to be heard Monday night.

Since so many appeared for the public hearing, the commission considered allowing those residents to speak anyway, even though their sentiments would not be entered into public record. Wroge, who was in the audience Monday night, alleged Heine said those residents who wished to speak would not be allowed to do so again during the rescheduled hearing on April 23.

“I want to know how you got the authority to say, ‘These people who spoke [last night] can’t come back [to the public hearing in April],’” Wroge demanded. “Those are our clients. Those are the people we work for. … It was very frustrating to sit here and see that happen.”

Heine remained calm through Wroge’s questioning and maintained that she was attempting to protect the public.

“I want to make it absolutely clear, to every member of the council and every member of the public, nothing that I said was to prevent any member of the public from being heard,” Heine said. “But my intention was to protect the rights of the public to be heard at the appropriate time. Last night was not the appropriate time for comments on a proposal that hasn’t been completed.”

Heine’s attempts to explain her side were not well received by Wroge.

“You didn’t give them a choice,” Wroge stated firmly. “You took away their right of free speech by telling them they couldn’t come back.”

“There wasn’t a right to speak last night,” Heine responded. “I was emphasizing that their right to speak was coming up. … If in any way I offended anyone, I apologize. But I will not apologize for upholding the process.”

“No matter what you say, you told people you couldn’t come back,” Wroge said in closing. “I hope it doesn’t happen again.”

Wroge’s scolding garnered cheers and applause from the audience, however, he stifled the claps, saying: “I’m not trying to give any credit out there. That’s my personal opinion. I thought it could’ve been handled better.”

Wroge also took issue with the fact that Pillsbury Commons developer Ron Clark was allowed to speak at the planning meeting, despite the fact that his presentation wasn’t part of the agenda.

The public hearing regarding the will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, April 23 in the council chambers at . If the zoning measure is approved that night, it will go before the city council in May.

David Haines March 29, 2012 at 06:23 PM
A HUGE thank you to Mr. Wroge for standing up for the citizens!
Barry L. March 30, 2012 at 10:03 AM
You know we have given Ron Clark over 2 and half hours of air time and only 3 minutes each for each citizen to voice their concerns. Where is the freedom of speech?
David Haines April 03, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Yes, Barry. The citizens of the community only get to be heard at the "appropriate time" while Ron gets to speak whether it's appropriate or not.

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