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Clackamas County hamlet leaders cite freedom of speech issue in letter to county commissioners

by: WILLAMETTE STRATEGIES - Hamlet of Molalla chairwoman Susan Hansen offered a rebuttal to Commissioner Tootie Smith's accusations.Following an early March meeting in which the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners  discussed refusing to approve a Molalla hamlet candidate, the chairs of five hamlets and villages in the county sent a letter to the commission criticizing the acton.

“The Board of County Commissioners has every right to review candidates for Hamlet and villages board positions regarding legal age of 18, residency, land ownership, or business ownership in the Hamlets or Village’s area,” the letter stated. “The Board of County Commissioners would be setting a bad precedent if they refused to approve a candidate because their political position is different than any member of the BCC.”

The letter, signed by the chairs of Beavercreek, Mulino, Stafford and Molalla Prairie hamlets and the Villages at Mt. Hood, went on to suggest that Commssioner Tootie Smith’s recent accusations of Molalla hamlet chairwoman Susan Hansen constitute a free speech issue.

“Clackamas County should not be a place where the opposition is silenced,” the letter stated. “Clackamas County is part of the United States of America, where free speech, especially free political speech, is a right. We strongly make the point that as individuals, we all have the constitutional right to free speech, and that our most protected right is political free speech.”

The letter cautioned that as long as hamlet leaders “do not use their titles connected to their individual opinions, there should be no repercussion about their personal opinions or political actions.”

Hansen has roundly criticized Smith and Chairman John Ludlow since they first campaigned for the board of commissioners. In recent board meetings, both Smith and Ludlow cited Hansen's criticism as reasons why they won’t approve her nomination. Smith also spoke out about Hansen's part in a lawsuit against the city of Molalla and her criticism of city leadership.

This is the first time the county board of commissioners has excluded someone from being a candidate for a hamlet board since hamlets and villages were first created in 2007.

Hansen said Thursday that Smith and Ludlow’s accusations are “massively insulting to all hamlet members.” Although Hansen has been chairwoman of the Hamlet of Molalla Prairie for two years and a board member for four, she said she has never claimed to represent the hamlet when voicing her opinions on issues.

“This is a vendetta against those of us who have the courage in this region to speak up against ill-run governments,” Hansen said of Smith’s accusations.

“I think this is hilarious. I have no respect for Tootie Smith,” she said. “This is an actual elected official who has degenerated into a vendetta to stop free speech. Smith won’t allow political free speech because she doesn’t like someone? This is beyond the pale in America. Her actions are akin to someone living in North Korea or Russia. This borders on fascism — controlling the message for your own personal gain and personal views.

“I make no bones about being an extremely harsh critic of how the city of Molalla conducts itself,” she added. “The city manager writes a slam letter against the hamlet claiming we don’t cooperate? The hamlet board invited him to one of our meetings, and we spent an hour and a half with him, begging Huff to interface with us about anything to do with a rural area. He has never done that, and neither has Mayor Deb Rogge. And then to call us some evil force ruining our community? ”




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