Last year Jennifer Reisinger of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, was ordered to remove a link from her website to the Sheboygan police department. Reisinger, who runs [Page no longer available – we have linked to the archive.org version instead], had linked to the Sheyboygan PD from her community spirit site, Sheboygan Spirit. Despite the fact that the link to the Sheboygan police department was among several other links to various Sheboygan public service sites, the Sheboygan city attorney demanded that the link to the police department be removed – and, the demand was made via a Cease and Desist letter.
Beyond that, even though Reisinger immediately complied with the demand (although she’d previously received permission for the link from a member of the Sheboygan police department), Reisinger subsequently received a call from the Sheboygan police department, telling her they were conducting “an official police investigation relative to the linking of her Web site to the City of Sheboygan Police Department.”
According to Jennifer Reisinger, both the Cease and Desist letter and the criminal investigation were initiated at the order of Sheboygan’s mayor, Juan Perez, in retaliation for her support of an effort to recall Mayor Perez.
As bad, the city attorney had previously advised Mayor Perez that “Anyone can create a link to someone else’s website very easily without the knowledge or consent of the linked party,” and that he had even checked with Margie Verhelst, the Information Services manager for the Sheboygan police department, and she had indicated that she was not aware of whether the City of Sheboygan itself had obtained permission for its own links to other sites. Still, Mayor Perez ordered the city attorney to send the cease and desist.
Now Jennifer Reisinger is suing the city of Sheboygan for violating her 1st Amendment rights.
According to the complaint:
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“The City of Sheyboygan, acting under color of law through the Office of the Mayor by the Mayor himself, and through the Office of the City Attorney and the Office of the Police Chief, retaliated against Ms. Reisinger for the aforementioned political participation by ordering her to â€œcease and desistâ€? in promoting her website’s links to various City of Sheboygan government websites, including the City of Sheboygan Police Department. Said links were intended to promote the City of Sheboygan and encouraged citizens to visit the City’s websites, as well as exercise Ms. Reisinger’s right to freedom of expression and speech under the First Amendment.
The retaliatory actions taken against Ms. Reisinger by the City of Sheboygan were on orders of Mayor Perez, personally and in his capacity as Mayor of the City of Sheboygan and instituted as a means to intimidate and punish Ms. Reisinger for her past political activity and to intimidate and restrict or control her ability to express herself through her website and, as such, were a clear violation of her First Amendment rights of free speech.
As a result of the defendants’ combined actions of retaliation against the Plaintiff, Jennifer B. Reisinger, the suffered threats to her personal safety, damage to her reputation, mental anguish, physical suffering, monetary damages, attorney fees and other expenses. Further, Ms. Reisinger’s right to pursue her economic goals has been diminished.
The combined retaliatory actions taken against Ms. Reisinger by the City of Sheboygan and by Mayor Perez, personally and in his official capacity as Mayor, were a willful, wanton and intentional disregard of her constitutional rights, designed to punish Ms. Reisinger for her past and present political activity involving Mayor Perez, and to cause her public humiliation and ridicule, making punitive damages against the defendants in their individual capacities appropriate and necessary to stop these repeated
patterns from occurring.”
You can read the Cease and Desist letter here.
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