Glendale leaders are set to review a proposal to place restrictions on who government officials can talk to on city time, a move 1st Amendment advocates say raises serious free speech concerns.
The call for tighter controls has its roots in a long-simmering tiff between the City Council and some of its regular commentators. The tension increased last week when a group of residents alleged Barry Allen, who some call a gadfly and others a city watchdog, had been convicted of running a counterfeiting operation in the mid 1980s.
Allen — who acknowledged the charge, but claimed he was working undercover for a federal agency — often criticizes city leaders and holds weekly forums to discuss municipal finances, water-rate increases and other issues. He’s used his weekly newsletter to traffic in gossip and to air officials’ dirty laundry, some true, some off-base.
The revelation surprised city leaders and prompted Councilman Ara Najarian to ask staff at the council meeting if there was a way to bar officials from talking to Allen, his Vanguardian group, or others connected to criminal activities.