Wednesday, July 12, 2017


UPDATED:  09:31 AM


At the June 26, 2017 meeting of North Canton City Council, long, long, long time North Canton civic activist Chuck Osborne (a former councilman), got tossed from council meeting by acting council president Doug Foltz for displaying an sign that was sure to offend North Canton law director Tim Fox.

Osborne feels that his removal was a violation of his U.S. Constitution rights as extended to the states (including its political subdivisions such as city governments) by virtue of the 14th amendment to the Constitution.

Here are parts of e-mails (except the entire July 10 e-mail) that he sent (or copies of) to The Stark County Political Report, to wit:

July 10th
For tomorrow night, I have a shirt with the words “Remove Law Director Tim Fox” printed, front and back, that I intend to wear. I have consulted my attorney ...  on both the sign and the shirt and he did NOT think it should be an issue. He took pictures of both items when I was in his office last Wednesday.
July 8th
Hello Martin,
The attached state statute [see insert below] has been brought to my attention in regards to interference with the civil rights of citizens by public officials .

Wanted to share this with you.

Generally, Law Director Tim Fox is obsessed with following state law. Do you think he will be influenced to any degree with this law?

I would like to clarify a point you made in your blog of the North Canton meeting where Vice-President of Council, Doug Foltz, at the urging of Law Director Tim Fox, took exception to my little protest sign.

I had not spoken out until Mr. Foltz addressed me, and then at that point I was simply responding to Mr. Foltz.

Until that time, I was sitting there quietly.

I think you mischaracterized the situation incorrectly in your blog post.   
(Note:  My recollection does not match Osborne's, LINK to that blog) 
When Mr. Fox took notice of my little sign and prompted Mr. Foltz to act (after it had been on display for about five minutes and which no one else in the chamber knew of or could see), only then did I speak out and that was to respond to Mr. Foltz.

At any rate, I will provide this for the moment and we will see where all of this leads.

Thank you,
June 27th
Hello Guys,

I know most of you did not get to see the small sign I had displayed at Council tonight so I have attached the 8 ½ x 11 inch sign for you to see.  (note:  see SCPR blog link above)

From thirty feet or more, I am surprised it was readable from the front of the Council Chamber but apparently it was.

For something so small and unobtrusive, I believe Council is overreacting but that is what they do. And always at the direction of Law Director Tim Fox.

Several weeks ago, I used the word “Hell” and Law Director Tim Fox made a Federal case out of it, but when Councilmember Domonic Fonte used the word “Hell” tonight, Mr. Fox had nothing to say.

In the 2004 hearings to remove former Mayor Tom Rice from office, a resident wore a complete body suit of a Kangaroo to the hearings and no one questioned it.

A small 8 ½ x 11 inch sign and I get removed from the Council Chamber.

No tolerance for democracy in North Canton.

A little “civil disobedience” is a good thing but it is not tolerated in North Canton.

It is what it is.

I had no doubt Citizen Osborne would follow through on his plan as set out in his July 10th e-mail.

What I was unprepared for was the timid manner in which he exercised his First Amendment rights at Monday's meeting.

My take on Osborne is that he has not in my experience of seeing him in action had any reluctance whatsoever to do a "in your face" routine when sparring with a North Canton government official.

On Monday, as he often does, Osborne spoke during a time allotted by council (5 minutes) to members of the general public under agenda item Recognition of Visitors which the SCPR tabs as being "public speaks."

Notice that he was wearing a sport jacket which in my recollection is not something that he generally, if ever, does.

To me, doffing the jacket would have been a true test of whether or not North Canton Council president Dan Peters would have been prompted to gavel him down and compel him to cover up or remove the "Remove Law Director Tim Fox" shirt.

To repeat, I am surprised that Osborne was so reticent about "showing his 'civil rights' colors" on Monday.

Could it be that Osborne is changing his ways in terms of less confrontation?

Insofar as I could tell, Osborne's jacket masked the Fox message during the entirety his addressing of council.

It was only when he sat down near his camera set up with which he records council meetings that one could discern the "Remove Law Director Tim Fox" on blue shirt imprinted plea.

In a post-meeting Q&A, Osborne told me that a motivating reason for his covering up the shirt was to ensure that he would be permitted to do his public speaks in the first place.

He had noted that a North Canton policeman was stationed just outside council chambers.   Was the policeman placed at the ready by council leadership in case needed to escort Osborne from the meeting room.  That, apparently, was Osborne's thought as another reason why the jacket remained on covering the anti-Fox slogan.

Near the end of the meeting during his space to address any matter he wished with council and the Held administration , Fox pointed out that he had noticed Osborne's "Remove Law Director Tim Fox" shirt.

In doing so, he proceeded to launch an attack (my take) on Citizen Osborne in saying that he (Fox) considered it a "badge of honor" that Osborne was calling for his removal as law director and as justification for his deeming the call a "badge of honor" he recited a number of causes that he says Osborne opposed over Fox's five year tenure as law director which causes Fox said were good for North Canton.

Monday was not the first time Fox has used a North Canton taxpayer forum to single out Osborne for a tongue lashing.

Here is a LINK (July, 2015) to a SCPR blog in which it appears that Fox used the city's website to in effect excoriate Oborne for using a citizen's right to challenge city actions in a court of law.

And, my recollection is, that Fox has caused to be published at least one other account of holding Osborne up to what I think was purposeful public ridicule (i.e. costing North Canton taxpayers money to defend against an Osborne initiative) for his use of various constitutional devices to hold the city accountable.

I missed it, but Osborne tells me that Fox took his picture with him wearing the "Remove Law Director Tim Fox" shirt at an earlier point in the meeting.

On reviewing my video, apparently Fox pulled out his cellphone and snapped Osborne's picture during Councilman Dominic Fonte's report time.  Fonte sits at the end of the council dais and looking at Fonte meant that Fox could not miss Osborne's sitting in the line of sight with his jacket open revealing the "Remove Law Director Tim Fox" script.

Just to be a little bit funny, one has to wonder whether or not the picture Fox is said to have taken is a public record subject to a public records request.

While done with his "personal" cellphone, he is an appointed North Canton official participating in an official meeting of North Canton City Council.

Could make for an interesting courtroom challenge, if Fox resisted such a request, no?

Backing up a bit, what was the picture taking all about?

A case of public official intimidation?

A picture he wants to have framed and placed in a prominent place in his home for all to see the likeness of his favorite civic activist?

Or, perhaps, to throw darts at?  That's how much animosity that I think North Canton public official Tim Fox has for Citizen Osborne.

To be fair, I think the feeling is mutual.

I do not disagree with Osborne that since Fox has come on board as North Canton's law director, he, and number of council's members (mostly through whomever happened to be president of council at the time) and even Mayor Held, on occasion, have exhibited considerable hostility to Osborne.

Osborne has given at least given as much as he has gotten.

At times, it seems as if there are no adults in the room when it comes to Osborne's interaction with council, the law director and other city officials.

However, one always hopes that there are some "cooler heads" in the room among officialdom to play the adult and calm things down and, where called for, tell their fellows (Fox in this case) that he has gone too far.

Democracy can be messy.

Government officials are certainly entitled to defend themselves when criticized by citizens, but it is part of the territory for elected and appointed officials to be critiqued and they need to have a temperament of measured response.

For the rest of North Canton government (i.e. council members and the mayor) to sit by and allow the city law director (selected in North Canton by council) to chastise a citizen for opposing this or that policy, practice or program suggests to me that they are enablers of Law Director Fox going on the attack on a citizen exercising his/her due process rights (i.e. the right to be heard) and that folks puts them in a pretty bad light in my judgment.

It's not only Osborne who appears to be a target of the law director and the council through its president.

There are  a number of North Cantonians who, since Fox came on as the hiree of council, had the audacity in coming before council in the manner of not being there to "praise Ceasar" but rather to tell the "King, he had no clothes."

North Canton officials seem to obsess about being told how great they are.  Undoubtedly, they are out to make "North Canton Great Again."  Not unlike a certain person who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

I have written quite a few blogs providing chapter, verse and video of some of those occasions when things get testy when council members are being told they are not so great.

The shy way Osborne exercised what he thinks is his exercise free speech Monday evening, leaves it open to question whether or not there has been a change of attitude on the part of council expressed through its president and its legal advisor on the matter of citizens exercising their constitutional free speech (verbal and non-verbal) rights.

It is always a constructive thing when the public's business can be conducted without disruption.

That Osborne did not flagrantly show off his shirt as I expected that he would was refreshing.

He says that his low key approach was purposeful so as not to inflame.

It is encouraging that President Peters did not react to obvious Fox's unhappiness that Osborne was wearing a protest-Fox shirt.

However, it is disappointing that we really do not know if Osborne's removal from the June 26th meeting (Foltz as acting president) provoked a reevaluation of silent protests on the part of the council president/law director and that going forward there will be no reactions so long as there is no verbal interjection outside the "Recognition of Visitors" forum.

It is totally out of order and disruptive for Osborne or anybody else to shout out from the audience during an ongoing council meeting.

That he did none of that on Monday, is also encouraging.

The only discouraging thing that happened at Monday's meeting was Fox's "badge of honor" speech.

As I said earlier in this blog, Fox should have been called out for what I think was an attack on Osborne.  Very unbecoming of a professional and city official, no?

If there is a change of approach vis-a-vis the likes of Osborne underway, it would have been helpful for President Peters to have articulated same, no?

But maybe his "silence" and non-action is the best we can hope for given the present climate.

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