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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ohio Mayor: Injunction Permanently Opens His Mouth

TOLEDO (TDB) -- Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner agreed to a permanent injunction today in U.S. District Court that requires him to admit a Clear Channel Inc. radio talk show host to all news conferences. The city's Law Director, William H. Bracy, signed the injunction. A violation would subject Finkbeiner to a penalty for contempt.

Finkbeiner also must notify the AM talk station's news director in advance of any public press conferences. The mayor has feuded with radio talker Kevin Milliken, a critic who works for Clear Channel's 1370, WSPD-AM. Milliken crashed a news conference earlier this month. City officials tried to keep him out because the mayor did not consider him a reporter, but "an entertainer for talk show radio." The mayor cancelled his news conference and began meeting individually with members of the media to avoid Milliken. City officials described the sessions as "briefings."

Finkbeiner wants to build a bicycle path on the city's south side, a plan the radio station dissed. Somehow, the hot air churned up a legal gale over free speech, free press and access to government officials.

The radio station filed suit in federal court claiming a First Amendment violation, and won a temporary restraining order against Finkbeiner earlier this month. Now the order is permanent.

U.S. District Judge James G. Carr said during a hearing earlier this month that he favored open news conferences over private gabs between politicos and journalists.

"That's the whole point. And maybe it's not such a bad thing . . .to the extent that there might be some restraint on the part of any public official developing that kind of relationship with members of the press to the exclusion of others, I happen to think, that's not all bad. More sunshine, more disinfectant, more light, more knowledge, a better informed public. That's a risk that I think is well worth imposing," Carr said.

In Toledo today, the First Amendment reigns supreme at City Hall. The case is Citicasters Co., d/b/a WSPD Radio 1370 et al, v. Carleton Finkebeiner, in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Toledo et al; No. 07-cv-00117. Bracy represented the city. Thomas G. Pletz, of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP was the lawyer for Clear Channel.

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