Commissioner Sues Montgomery Co. For "Violating First Amendment Rights"

Aug 17, 2019

Credit Montgomery County Courthouse

A Montgomery County, Tennessee commissioner and two disabled veterans are suing the county over a recent resolution that bans citizens from live streaming public commission meetings.

Commissioner Jason Knight, David Webb and Joshua Wikholm filed the lawsuit in a federal district court on Thursday. 

The suit claims the county is violating First Amendment rights to free speech.

Knight said it’s the public’s right to know if something controversial is being discussed.

“If someone else within the public would like to come to a commission meeting or a city council meeting or any other legislative meeting, provided the measures are there, it is their prerogative, their First Amendment right,” Knight said.

The lawsuit said in a footnote that limiting a live stream to an official government YouTube channel is "the modern equivalent of insisting that a state-run newspaper obviates the need for local press."

A commission committee said last week that live streams could expose the county to security risks and some said they are nervous about safety in public gatherings. The commission voted 20-1 in favor of the ban, with Commissioner Joshua Beal casting the lone “no” vote. The county says it provides recordings of the meetings on its YouTube channel.