Lawsuit: Can a councilwoman ban constituents from commenting on her Facebook page?

The Colorado Independent: Two Coloradans are suing the city of Thornton and a councilwoman because they say she banned them from commenting on her official Facebook page after they spoke out against her position on a proposed ballot measure to limit oil-and-gas drilling in Colorado.

According to the lawsuit, filed today on behalf of Clifton Willmeng, a nurse who lives in Lafayette, and Edward Asher, a Marine Corps reservist who lives in Thornton, Councilwoman Jan Kulmann silenced them because of their views.

“The banning of Mr. Willmeng and Mr. Asher imposes an unconstitutional restriction on their participation in a designated public forum and their right to petition the government for redress of grievances,” the suit states.

Kulmann, who is also the city’s mayor pro tem, has worked in the oil-and-gas industry and opposes this year’s Proposition 112 ballot measure that would require drill rigs be 2,500 feet from homes and occupied structures. The current state law is 500 feet.

Willmeng, an anti-fracking activist who helped found the group East Boulder County United, is running for a seat on the Boulder County Commission.

The lawsuit is the latest skirmish over what has become perhaps the most controversial question on this year’s ballot, which will be hitting mailboxes today and tomorrow across Colorado. The measure pits those who want to limit fracking against a well-financed oil-and-gas industry that is spending big to defeat it. Those who helped gather enough signatures earlier this year to put the question before voters have accused opponents of harassment and even payoffs in order to keep them from succeeding.

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