Resident claims restrictions a breach of Constitutional rights
Published 1:22 pm, Friday, May 17, 2013
New Canaan officials have banned outspoken resident Michael Nowacki from public town offices unless he receives permission in advance.
According to a letter sent to him on May 10 from First Selectman Robert Mallozzi and New Canaan Police Capt. Leon Krolikowski, Nowacki is also barred from contacting all but two town officials -- Mallozzi and Town Administrator Tom Stadler.
"The ... restrictions are based on your documented and continued intimidating demeanor," the letter reads. "Your communications with Town Employees and Town Officials (sic) have become increasingly hostile, which has caused several employees and officials to fear for their safety. ... The restrictions are effective immediately. If you violate any of the restrictions ... you may be arrested."
Additional restrictions state that Nowacki may only communicate via email with Stadler, who has jurisdiction over granting his appearance requests. The town did not restrict Nowacki's attend public meetings.
For his part, Nowacki said the restrictions are a ridiculous breach of Constitutional rights for a person who has not made threats. He said that an arrest would violate the terms of release on an appeal bond from a previous arrest, and would cause him more legal trouble.
"You can't tell someone you can't speak to public officials. It's a First Amendment issue," Nowacki said Tuesday. "Under a strict interpretation of the letter, I couldn't go into Karl Chevrolet and buy a car if I wanted to if Steve Karl was there. It's absurd."
Included in the letter is a May 8 incident report Mallozzi filed with the police department. It states, in part, a fear for the safety of town employees over the tone of Nowacki's emails and appearances.
"At approximately 14:35 hours I met with First Selectman Mallozzi. He told me he is fearful for the safety of his staff, his family and himself and wants Nowacki's access to the town government employees and offices restricted."
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The report, written by Officer Joseph Farenga, also states that Nowacki has not been explicitly threatening.
"I read some e-mails sent from Nowacki that were provided to me by Captain Krolikowski and did not see any threats or abusive language, however the e-mails are very intense and accusatory in nature."
"The First Amendment protects the right of citizens not only to speak but to petition their government for the redress of grievances, and to make complaints to urge change in governmental regulations," Cohen explained. "That said, the courts have repeatedly held that the government can regulate the time, place and manner of speech in relation to public safety ... There is a right for the government to protect its processes while allowing for the communication of ideas."
The restrictions imposed by the town are not unlike those imposed by the Board of Education, under which Nowacki may attend BOE meetings, but must ask permission to attend sporting and other extracurricular events.
A Jan. 31 ruling of preliminary injunction by Judge Janet Hall did not reverse the Board of Education's Nowacki policy.
"Of course, the First Amendment protects all of our speech, assembly, association from government ridicule. It is not, however, an unlimited right," Hall said, according to the transcript. "The Court finds that the prior notification system put into place is a reasonable one, and it has been carried out reasonably."
Neither Mallozzi nor Krolikowski returned calls for comment.
Police Chief Edward Nadriczny said the charges under which Nowacki might be arrested if he violated the restrictions imposed on him by the town would be a judgment by the police who respond to a call.
"There are six bullet points of what his obligations are before he can go to Town Hall," Nadriczny said. "Because he has threatened litigation against us, I'm not going to comment any further than that. The letter speaks pretty much for itself, and our officers would make a decision if there was any probable cause for an arrest."
One of the emails submitted as part of Mallozzi's incident report includes an email from Nowacki to Town Council Chairman Mark DeWaele, a dentist in town, over why the management letter for the town audit was not more prominently placed on the town's website.
"Mr. Dewaele, what is in this report which might be of interes to the citizen's (sic throughout) of the Town of New Canaan that you don't want us to know?... Mr. Dewaele, is there a Cloud of Suspicion on the distribution of this management letter delivered to you on "Your I Pad Cloud"? Or, Mr. Dewaele did you receive your copy of the management letter at your Saturday squash club meeting of your "insider traders" in local governance?... Pulling teeth is easier than answering my questions isnt it Mr. Dewaele?"
Nowacki plans to petition for a legal injunction against the restriction.
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