The Reporter covers Miller, Morgan and Camden County in Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks and is published once per week on Wednesdays.
Published October 12, 2022
Camdenton considers removing sitting alderman
CAMDENTON – The quiet city is facing controversy with the possibility of removing a current alderman due to his postings on social media.
Various people spoke during the beginning of last week’s Board of Aldermen meeting and all were in favor of Alderman Daniel Ousley, who is the one being discussed. At the meeting, an attorney for Ousley spoke at length and said the city would be removing Ousley due to his exercising of his First Amendment right of free speech.
The meeting also had a bill on the agenda adding a section to the city code entitled “Section 110.195: Elected Official Code of Conduct.” The submitted Bill would require all elected official to abide by a code of conduct even in their personal life and their social media comments.
“C. Social Media- Due to the popularity and widespread use of social media elected officials must understand they are stewards for the city and its assets, interests, and reputation and must use social media in manner that reflects well upon themselves and the City. Elected officials are prohibited from posting information which is detrimental to the interests of the City when known to be false or grossly inaccurate.”
Some of the sections of the bill are very broad and would, in their present form, be difficult to define. For instance:
“F. Harassing / Bullying: It is a violation of this policy to post statements, photographs, video, or audio that could be construed to be an attempt to harass, bully, or threaten co-workers, residents, suppliers, citizens, or other individuals. Online postings that have the potential to create a hostile or abusive environment based on race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military status, marital status, sexual orientation, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by applicable federal, or state law are strictly prohibited. Behavior that would be defined as harassment is strictly prohibited.”
Even though elected officials officially represent the city and the Wards that voted them into office, the bill would restrict them from speaking on behalf of the city.
“D. Personal Blogging: Elected officials who write in personal blogs should include clear disclaimers that the views expressed are their own and do not represent the views of the City. Elected officials are not authorized to speak on behalf of the City unless given specific authority to do so by City officials. If an elected official chooses to post content related to the City they must make it clear they are not speaking on behalf of our City by using statements such as ‘The opinions and positions expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the City’.”
One of the more restrictive parts of the Bill is in section G:
“G. Elected officials of the City of Camdenton… SHALL NOT
Defining “divisiveness or controversy” in today’s world would be close to impossible, since many people are offended by every little thing.
The Reporter viewed some of Ousley’s Facebook posts and they were pro United States, pro “Make America Great Again” and anti Biden.
Any of those posts could be considered divisive or controversial to people, mainly Democrats, and would be forbidden by the new addition the city code.
That means if you agree to be an elected official of the city, your personal free speech would be restricted, which Ousley’s attorney said is a violation of the First Amendment.
The summary of the bill stated: “Elected officials will hereafter conduct themselves according to all rules of conduct that pertain to full time city employees (Employee Handbook).”
One point that was brought up is elected officials are not employees of the city or county or state that voted them in. Elected officials are actually employees of the voters who put them in office.
When it came time to vote on the proposed bill there was a motion to approve but no second which means the bill dies, which it did.
No mention was made as to whether the bill will come back in a future Board of Aldermen meeting, but it might.
In the latter part of the agenda at last week’s meeting, there was a “Discussion on removal from office of alderman.”
Mayor John McNabb said the attorney the city hired to address this issue asked that the Board put this on hold for at least two weeks while they review the material the city supplied to them.
Ousley was present at last week’s meeting but did not say anything about this issue and let his attorney speak for him.
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