Legal groups call on Staunton Council to rethink public input options

Citizens protest council's recent decision to end the public's ability to call in during...
Citizens protest council's recent decision to end the public's ability to call in during meetings.
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 9:18 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Several legal groups are now calling on Staunton City Council to reconsider the public’s ability to remotely attend meetings and speak virtually.

Protestors have been making their voices heard at meetings in recent weeks, calling on council to resume virtual options during the COVID-19 crisis after voting to end the emergency ordinance in place for the pandemic and have in-person meetings again.

Tuesday, attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law Center, and the disAbility Law Center of Virginia sent a joint letter to councilors to lay out their concerns.

The letter states, “Removing the only available avenue for remote participation during the ongoing pandemic raises questions about the City Council’s compliance with federal laws prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities. In addition, at least one City Council member has recently made comments suggesting that this change may have been motivated by a desire to stifle dissenting viewpoints in violation of the First Amendment. Accordingly, we request that you take immediate action to resolve these concerns by restoring the public’s ability to participate remotely by telephone.”

The legal groups offered to meet with councilors to further discuss the issue.

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