OGDENSBURG — The City of Ogdensburg has retained a law firm to represent itself and its mayor against a federal lawsuit filed by residents claiming their constitutional rights have been violated after being blocked on the mayor’s Facebook page.
In a statement released Friday evening, City Manager Stephen P. Jellie stated that the city had retained the law firm of Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP, to represent both Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly and the city against a lawsuit filed on Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court, Plattsburgh, by what he calls is a small group of “local government disruptors” in Cynthia Layng, Douglas Loffler, Brian Mitchell and Angela McRoberts.
The city residents are represented by the law firm of Gleason, Dunn, Walsh & O’Shea of Albany. The plaintiffs allege that the mayor’s act of “blocking” citizens from participating in the ongoing discussions regarding the affairs and policies of the city “constitutes viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,” according to the complaint.
“The City will defend itself and the Mayor vigorously against these charges and remains confident that all its actions taken since January 2020 are in the best interest of the entire city, it’s taxpayers and residents and more important they uphold the law,” wrote Mr. Jellie.
Mr. Jellie claims that these “disruptors” attack city government because they are angry over the 2019 election where then Mayor Wayne Ashley and councilors David Price and Jennifer Stevenson were defeated.
“Since taking office in January 2020, Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly and the Majority City Council received a challenge on each and every action taken to save the city from financial ruin and remove the cronyism and mismanagement that reigned during the previous administration. For months this group has been seeking a “silver bullet” to force the resignation or removal of the Mayor and Majority Councilors to no avail,” wrote Mr. Jellie.
Mr. Jellie concluded his statement by saying that the city will not be intimidated by calls for boycotts against city businesses and individuals “that support change” and it will not “allow favored employee labor unions to control the city’s financial future.”
“This behavior is not that of citizenry voicing concern and participating in government, it is simply weak attempts to instill fear, create anxiety and disrupt progress in a city that needs drastic change in order to survive and ultimately revive,” he concluded.
Court documents state that the plaintiffs demand a jury trial and that the plaintiffs are seeking “injunctive relief” prohibiting Mr. Skelly from blocking them from his Facebook profile as well as compensatory and punitive damages as well as for Mr. Skelly to pay for legal fees associated with the lawsuit.