NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — The North Kingstown Town Council is facing a lawsuit that claims it denied a man the right to speak at a recent meeting, violating a provision of the town charter.
The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the council on behalf of North Kingstown resident and former town council candidate Richard Welch.
Welch attended a meeting Dec. 10 and claims when he attempted to speak, Council President Kerry McKay refused to let him do so.
The lawsuit states the town council violated a town charter provision that gives members of the public “a reasonable opportunity to be heard” at meetings.
According to the ACLU, town officials said the provision only applies to regularly scheduled meetings and not “special” meetings like the one held in December.
The ACLU’s lawsuit refutes that notion, saying there “is no distinction made in the Town Charter between regular and special Town meetings to justify the denial of the public’s right to be heard.”
The lawsuit asks the court to find that Welch’s right to speak was violated and to issue an order requiring the town council “to honor the public’s right to attend and have a reasonable opportunity to be heard at all Town Council meetings.”
“The right of the public to be heard by our government is very basic to our form of government and it should not be allowed to be abridged by anyone,” Welch said in a statement Monday. “This is not the first time that this has happened in North Kingstown, but it must be the last.”
Eyewitness News has reached out to the North Kingstown Town Council for comment.