Residents claim First Amendment violations on trustee’s Facebook page

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Residents claim First Amendment violations on trustee’s Facebook page

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A federal lawsuit filed on behalf of five Hamilton Twp. residents claims Trustee David Wallace Jr. violated their First Amendment rights by blocking them from commenting on a Facebook page he uses to communicate with residents about township business.

A township trustee running for re-election in Warren County has unblocked Facebook critics since the filing of a federal lawsuit claiming he prevented residents from commenting on his trustee site on the social network.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of five Hamilton Township residents who claim David Wallace Jr. violated the First Amendment when he blocked them from commenting on a Facebook page he uses for township business.

Wallace is one of seven candidates running for two seats on the three-seat board of trustees in the booming township, south of Lebanon.

Also running are Darryl Cordrey, Cadi Kelly, Nathan Myers, Joe Rozzi, Roxan Tarnowski and Kim Lukens.

The lawsuit is related to his management of a Facebook site where he interacts with residents about village issues, but which also features re-election materials. He also has another web page devoted to his campaign.

The lawsuit, claiming First Amendment violations, is filed in U.S. District Court for Lisa Wilson, Danny Wilson, Kathryn Wuest, Kyle Riley and Amanda Johnson.

“Recently, a federal court in Virginia found that a local politician had violated the First Amendment when she temporarily banned a constituent from commenting on her Facebook page. This case raises substantially similar issues,” Joshua Engel, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit, said in comments posted on his law firm’s website.

This morning, Lisa Wilson said she also had been unblocked, but that others were still unable to comment on the site.

Also this morning, Mike Stine, who is not a party in the lawsuit, indicated he had been unblocked since the lawsuit was filed.

“Also thanks for unblocking me, I know it took some people to file a lawsuit so that I can contact you, one of our elected trustees,” Stine said in a post on the Facebook page in question.

This morning, Engel indicated the lawsuit would not be withdrawn because of Wallace unblocking critics.

“We won’t be dropping the suit because we can’t confirm what he has done to unblock people and, more importantly, we need to make sure this is not done in the future,” Engel said this morning via email.

Wallace did not respond to requests for a response and has not responded to the lawsuit, filed on Sept. 5.

Staff writer Richard Wilson contributed to this report.

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