City Clerk says resident removed from 1st Ward meeting could have 1st Amendment claim


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st). Fiske said she couldn’t confirm that Vasilko was removed from the Tuesday meeting.

Maia Spoto, City Editor

A 6th Ward resident said he was removed from a virtual Tuesday 1st Ward meeting after attempting to ask Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) a question about a Council vote regarding the Robert Crown Community Center.

At the start of the meeting, Fiske said, “There is a political campaign going on, so we’re not going to talk politics tonight.” When 6th Ward resident Mike Vasilko asked about Robert Crown’s contractor not paying a penalty for failing to meet a local employment threshold based on a vote Fiske joined, Fiske said she would not engage in a political conversation. She also said Vasilko should ask the question at his own ward meeting.

Fiske, Vasilko and other residents at the meeting talked over each other about Vasilko’s question before Vasilko said he was removed from the meeting. In an email to The Daily, Fiske said she “cannot confirm” that Vasilko was removed.

Some residents were concerned Fiske had violated the Open Meetings Act, but the act is only in effect when a quorum of a public body has convened. 8th Ward aldermanic candidate and current City Clerk Devon Reid said while Vasiliko doesn’t have an Open Meetings Act claim, he might have a 1st Amendment claim.

“This would be the equivalent of lifting this guy up and taking him out of the room, in non-Covid times,” Reid said. “And I think we need to take that seriously.”

Fiske told The Daily Vasilko’s questions are “well-known and disruptive.” She said after she asked Vasilko to stop, he did not mute his microphone, so she asked him to leave. She said Vasiliko “was making a political comment” about an issue her opponent has raised, and that she wasn’t taking political comments during this meeting.

“This group of people comes and they disrupt all of our Ward meetings, so much so that people don’t even want to attend Ward meetings anymore,” Fiske said. “There needs to be some control over that.”

Vasilko told The Daily he’s asked the same question at multiple Council meetings and has emailed Council members several times, receiving no response.

Tuesday night was his first attempt asking the question at a ward meeting, he said, and he intends to try again at future ward meetings.

“I’ve been asking the question long before this so-called political season started,” Vasilko said. “My issue is, I’ve been asking the question at City Council meetings literally for months… I have no answer.”

1st Ward resident Jeremy Vannatta, who attended the meeting, made a comment in support of Vasilko Tuesday saying he wanted to hear Vasilko’s question. In response, Fiske said to him the question’s timing was not appropriate because the meeting was not political.

Vannatta said he thinks ward meetings are inherently political.

“Judy did not want to hear his question,” Vannatta said. “She cut Mike off early in his questioning, almost as if she knew what was coming and she didn’t want the question to be heard.”

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