ACLU Writes in Defense of Banned North Adams Man

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Robert Cardimino holds a sign outside City Hall this past June after being banned from the building.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local man banned from City Council meetings has gained support from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The nonprofit organization, which advocates for individual rights, has submitted a five-page letter to City Solicitor John B. DeRosa rebutting the reasoning behind a notice of trespass place on Robert Cardimino in June and asking for it to be lifted.

"We believe that the notice violates Mr. Cardimino's free speech and associational rights, and for the reasons set forth below hereby request its revocation," states the letter signed by William C. Newman, director of the ACLU's Northampton office.

Cardimino provided the letter to iBerkshires on Monday.

Cardimino has been a frequent speaker at City Council meetings over the years, clashing with councilors and mayors. He's taken particular aim at Mayor Richard Alcombright and became the very public voice of the anti-Proposition 2 1/2 override last year.

Earlier this year, the incoming City Council changed its rules of order to limit public speech during agenda items that ended Cardimino's regular attempts to engage the mayor in debate.

He was escorted from a City Council meeting by police over a sign, dumped a rock in front of a City Council president and, in the incident that led to the no-trespass order, continued a heated confrontation with City Councilor Marie Harpin after the meeting had ended.

Since then, he has stood each Tuesday night during council meetings on the sidewalk outside City Hall on West Main Street with a sign accusing the council and Mayor Richard Alcombright of denying his rights.

Cardimino said he had filed an open meeting law complaint with the attorney general's office but contacted the ACLU because of the lengthy time it sometimes takes for the attorney general to respond.

The retired GE worker and veteran said he did not wish to be quoted but that he would have plenty to say when his complaint is decided. 

In June, DeRosa said that no-trespassing orders have been handed out before and that, according to state laws, "There is no right to speak at a public meeting."

Newman lists a number of court cases in support of Cardimino's use of a sign and his ability to address the council. It notes the trespass order has no termination date, no conditions to be met for its withdrawal, no hearing or appeals process, and that it covers the entire building, restricting Cardimino's access to public services.

"The use of a trespass order to suppress speech is exactly the kind of prior restraint that the constitutional right to free speech seeks to prevent," states Newman. He asks that the city respond within a week's time.

The attorney general's office has not yet made a ruling on the complaint.

ACLU Letter: Cardimino
Tags: Cardimino,   city council,   constitution,   open meeting,   trespass,   

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