Activist claims Washington County officials violated right to speak
FAYETTEVILLE – A local activist claims in federal court that Washington County officials violated his civil rights by expelling him from two public meetings.
Clint Schnekloth filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville.
Schnekloth names Washington County District Attorney Brian Lester and Justices of the Peace Patrick Deakins, Sam Duncan and Jim Wilson as defendants in his lawsuit. Lester and the Justices of the Peace are named as both individual and official defendants.
Lester, Deakins and Wilson each said on Tuesday that they had not seen the trial and could not comment on the allegations. Duncan did not respond to three messages left on his voicemail Tuesday afternoon asking for comment.
Schnekloth claims he was excluded from county government meetings on June 28 and July 15 and was deprived of his “guaranteed rights to speak and participate in democratic government.” His withdrawal from meetings violates his rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to his lawsuit.
The meeting agenda included a resolution declaring Washington County a “pro-life” county. Other topics included discussion of how the county could spend Covid-19 relief money, the status of the county’s Crisis Stabilization Unit, recycling programs in the county, a pay rise for Lester and increases for elected county officials.
According to the complaint, Duncan ordered an assistant in the Washington County Sheriff’s Office to remove Schnekloth from the June 28 meeting “for no apparent reason and no good cause.” The lawsuit claims Lester facilitated Schnekloth’s impeachment while he chaired the Quorum Court meeting.
Deakins ordered a deputy to remove Schnekloth from the boardroom before the July 15 meeting began, according to the lawsuit.
Schnekloth says the county has no policy governing the removal of people from a public meeting.
“The result is an official custom, policy or practice of violating the civil rights of voters, awkward local government meetings, anxious interactions with deputy sheriffs who seem frustrated at being ordered to remove people without due process. no good cause and a paralyzing effect on the protected speech, “says the lawsuit.
Schnekloth seeks to get the quorum tribunal to draft an enforceable policy protecting the First Amendment rights of all members of the community, preventing discrimination that violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and clarifying the process. removing a person from a public meeting or censoring a person’s speech.
He’s asking for a jury trial.