GJ residents file ethics complaint against Scott
Three Grand Junction residents filed an ethics complaint Tuesday with the Colorado Senate against Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.
The three — Anne Landman, Claudette Konola and Martin Wiesiolek — have asked Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Canon City, to convene an ethics investigation of Scott.
They say Scott has improperly infringed on their free-speech rights by blocking them from “one or more of his official social media accounts.”
“It is clear that Senator Scott blocks constituents from accessing his official social media forums whenever they criticize him and or express opinions that differ with his,” the three said in their complaint. “His actions violate our and other constituents’ rights of free speech.”
Scott, who had not heard about the complaint until contacted by The Daily Sentinel, said he’s only hidden some “inappropriate” comments from public view, adding that there’s nothing official about his social media accounts.
“I look at (social media) as something that I do personally because I scour news stories, and if I think it’s something of interest to constituents who might be friending me because they don’t get The Daily Sentinel, for example, I post the story,” Scott said. “The state doesn’t pay for this. There’s no state staffer that posts for me.”
That means no taxpayer dollars go into it, Scott said.
The three complainants say that because Scott is a duly elected official, his Twitter and Facebook accounts constitute a public forum that should be open to all.
“Senator Scott maintains his Facebook page and Twitter accounts under the aegis of his position as a state elected official for the purpose of interacting with members of the public,” the three said in their complaint. “He uses his Facebook page to share policy-related information with constituents. Senator Scott primarily uses his social media accounts as tools of governance, keeping constituents abreast of his official activities as a state senator.”
Scott said he only hides or blocks comments that are inappropriate or off subject, particularly if they are profane. A search of his Facebook and Twitter accounts revealed several posts critical of him.
One of the articles he’s recently posted on his Facebook page is from the American Civil Rights Union, a nonprofit group that often files lawsuits and court briefs in cases related to civil rights.
That article was about recent court cases against elected officials for blocking or editing posted comments from so-called trolls — people who frequently post inflammatory or offensive comments.
The article cites a recent federal court ruling in Virginia that said an elected county official violated the First Amendment by blocking a constituent’s criticism. That same judge, however, also said such elected officials are allowed to moderate comments if they harass or hinder others’ free-speech rights.
Under legislative rules, the Senate president, majority leader and minority leader will review if a complaint has merit to proceed to a full ethics investigation. Only two have to agree.