GREEN: The city’s interim law director has been formally asked to look into an incident at last Saturday’s Freedom Fest involving freedom of speech.

The request came from resident Blaise Codispoti during City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday night after hearing the issue raised earlier during the council’s committee meeting by City Council Vice President Bob Young.

The issue referred to by Codispoti was the use of a tent in the children’s entertainment section where council members Matt Shaughnessy and Steve Dyer were giving out free balloon animals to children. Others were handling voter registration and a petition to have the city’s law director post changed by voters from an appointed to an elected position.

Codispoti said he was troubled after learning from Service Director Valerie Carr that one of several callers complaining about the petition activity wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

“That boggles my mind that we have that sentiment in a resident here in the city,” he said.

“It is pretty clear [by law] that you cannot use public funds to directly or indirectly support political causes for candidates. I think there have been a number of court cases … so I formally request that the law director at least do an investigation and provide the facts to the appropriate agency, the attorney general or the auditor’s office, for a ruling.”

Shaughnessy said: “It’s only a freedom-of-speech issue. There was no city money spent. We had a wonderful tent where we allowed people to register to vote and also if they wanted to sign the petition … we provided that opportunity. It’s civic activity and it was on a day of Freedom Fest.”

“It’s a complete freedom of speech issue, and it’s a shame that Freedom Fest, which is supposed to celebrate the freedom to express yourself, especially politically, is looking to be quashed by the city,” Dyer said.

Carr explained that callers told her there were two council people soliciting signatures for a petition and wanted to know if the city had endorsed that.

She said the city knew about the balloons and voter registration but not the petition.

Shaughnessy said the application included civic activities, part of which was the petition drive.

George W. Davis can be reached at: mediaman@sssnet.com.