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Activists sue mayor for not being allowed to speak

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VILLAGE OF MONTGOMERY, NY — Two activists and the former supervisor of the Town of Montgomery are suing Mayor Steve Brescia of the Village of Montgomery for blocking the women from speaking at a village meeting on June 6.

The lawsuit was filed on July 4 by attorney Michael Sussman in federal court in White Plains. In talking about the lawsuit in a Facebook post, Sussman wrote, “you go to a public meeting called by a unit of government, you have a strong opinion you want to share, the convener of the meeting singles you out and says you cannot speak because of what he expects you will say, critical of a project he supports; he asks the local police agency, present at the meeting, to escort you from the meeting. Is this the America we just celebrated? Or is this some perverse notion of what it means to have power in a democracy.”
The lawsuit also names other members of the village board of trustees because they did not overrule the mayor “or express any concern with his anti-First Amendment conduct.”

The subject under discussion at the meeting was a proposed 1.3 million square-foot warehouse and distribution center proposed by Medline, a global manufacturer of medical products.

The lawsuit is being brought by Jessica Gocke, her mother, Debra Corr; and the former supervisor Susan Cockburn. The lawsuit alleges that Brescia prevented the women from speaking and ordered village police to escort two of them from the room.

Brescia, who also serves as chair of the Orange County Legislature, did not respond to a request for comment.

Gocke and Corr are members of Concerned Citizens of the Hudson Valley who have spoken out against development projects in Orange County. The group has targeted Legoland, which has been fined $238,000 by the Department of Environmental Conservation for discharges into the Otter Kill Creek. The group is also opposed to the Competitive Power Ventures power plant, which has been linked to health complaints in the area and to a bribery scandal involving Joe Percoco, who is now serving prison time and is a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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