Alva Review-Courier -

Lawsuit: Kansas mayor deleted posts panning virus response


SCOTT CITY, Kan. (AP) — A resident of a western Kansas town is claiming in a lawsuit that the mayor violated residents' free-speech rights by deleting criticism on social media of how the town was responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Tracy Chambless says in the lawsuit that Scott City and its mayor, Everett Green, removed critical comments from the mayor's Facebook page and a local news page that Green controls. It also contends that the city council has not provided a means for public comment since banning residents from meetings in April in response to the pandemic.

Scott City, a town of nearly 3,800 residents is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northwest of Wichita.

Green last week declined to comment on the lawsuit until he had time to consult with an attorney, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Chambless, a frequent critic of Scott City government, also said in the lawsuit that the city unlawfully removed her and others' criticisms of the police department's response to a domestic dispute involving her son earlier this month.

Before the pandemic, the city council responded to several disagreements with Chambless by requiring residents to put any complaints in writing and schedule a time to appear before the council, the lawsuit alleges. And in April the council barred the public from attending meetings in response to the coronavirus.

Since the pandemic began, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has said local government boards could meet without the public but must provide a reasonable alternative opportunity for public comment.

The lawsuit seeks a court order prohibiting the mayor or other city officials from deleting or blocking comments on social media and overturning the limitations on comments at council meetings. It also seeks unspecified monetary damages of more than $75,000.

The number of coronavirus cases in the state rose Monday to 9,218, up 260 from Friday, when numbers were last released. The state has recorded 188 deaths, three more than on Friday.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. The elderly and people with existing health problems are susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.


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