Activists are suing Thornton, pro tem mayor claims their free speech was violated on Facebook

Lawsuit: Comments opposing Prop 112 deleted
Posted at 9:15 PM, Oct 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-17 09:07:43-04

DENVER — A lawsuit that started over a Facebook post about Proposition 112 has anti-oil and gas activists accusing an acting mayor of violating their free speech.

Thornton Mayor Pro Tem and City Council member Jan Kulmann wrote a post voicing her opposition to Prop 112. The post on her official Facebook page said: "It's not often that I am vocal about state initiatives on this page. It's time to be bold." She went on to say that Thornton stands to lose jobs if the measure passes.

The issue is with the comments under that Facebook post. The lawsuit alleges that Kulmann deleted comments and blocked supporters of Proposition 112. The ballot measure will restrict oil and gas development by increasing setbacks to at least 2,500 feet.

"If someone posts on your wall and you don't like it, you can delete it. But if you're a government official, and you've posted something that's political, you have to hear out everyone's opinion," said Andy McNulty, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Cliff Willmeng and Eddie Asher are the anti-fracking activists who are suing. The lawsuit includes a screenshot of Willmeng's post and claims it was later deleted. It also accuses Kulmann of blocking them.

Kulmann issued the following statement when asked about the lawsuit, "I want to respect those that are concerned. However, I will say, I have not blocked any of my constituents. I have hidden inappropriate or insensitive comments from both sides of the issue."

McNulty says the danger is anyone who looks at Kulmann's official page could be led to believe that her constituents do not support Prop 112. He also believes there is a conflict of interest because of her job at Noble Energy.

"I really hope it sends a message to politicians, government officials across the state of Colorado that if you don't like what someone is saying you can't just shut them down," said McNulty.