Eastpointe mayor gets sued for her silencing of residents at meetings

The Eastpointe mayor is facing a lawsuit for her treatment - and her silencing of residents during public meetings.

"She tends to bully, it looks like senior citizens," said Mary Hall Rayford.

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens cut her off during public comment – with just under three minutes of her allotted time remaining.

"You know what, I'm going to stop you right there, we're going to stop the council meeting," said Owens during a meeting, interrupting Rayford. "I'm going to have a point of order, and I'm going to talk over you. This is going to be one of those meetings y'all never seen before."

And it happened to two other people at the same September meeting.

In another instance, this happened after Owens interrupted another elderly resident who then responded that the mayor was out of line.

"You are out of line," she fired back. "Now do you want to stand there and talk about your cats and your dogs in the community, but you don't want to talk about me?"

Mayor Owens, who is serving the third year of her first term, did not want to hear any residents supporting councilman Harvey Curley - who Owens alleges assaulted her last summer at a community event.

Rayford says that she wanted to exercise her First Amendment right to support Curley.

"If you can’t stand the criticism, you shouldn’t get into politics," she said.

The situation in Eastpointe has gotten the attention of the free speech foundation based in Philadelphia that’s filed a federal lawsuit against the mayor, on behalf of Rayford – and three other women silenced at those meetings.

"The government doesn't get to decide what side of the debate citizens can speak on," said attorney Conor Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick, with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, is overseeing this case.

He says public officials can of course stop disorderly conduct during public comment – like swearing or throwing things.

"What the government can’t do is cut you off and shout you down because they don’t like what you have to say," he said.

Rayford, who admittedly is not a big lawsuit person says her end game is simple.

"I want people to come to a council meeting and speak their minds," she said.

FOX 2 emailed Mayor Monique Owens for comment – this clip, the end of that September council meeting that ended abruptly.

Mayor Owens did not respond in time for this story.

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens.

Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens.