Early this month, a 59-year-old resident of Bridgeport Township, Mich., was arrested and charged with felony resisting arrest and obstructing police, as well as misdemeanor disturbing the peace, when he spoke longer than three minutes during the public comment portion of a town meeting.
Mark A. Adams attended the March 4 meeting to give each of the township board members a four-page document listing 21 grievances against the officials present and other government representatives.
Included in the document were allegations that the township board violated laws covered by the Freedom of Information Act and Michigan’s open meetings act. Adams also charged that the local officials violated his property rights and launched a corrupt campaign of intimidation against him.
As Adams attempted to explain the allegations in the document to township officials during the time set aside for public comment, one official was apparently keeping a close watch on the clock. Quickly, the three-minute speech rule was invoked by the officials to dispel the angry resident by having him arrested.
If you’ve ever spent much time around town or city halls, you know that every locale has a resident or two who expend great effort to irritate low-level government officials. And, in many cases, those folks are pretty misguided in the reasoning behind their mission. But even if Adams fit that profile, having him dragged out of a public building by the police for not ending a speech at exactly three minutes doesn’t encourage sympathy for the officials he accused of lacking transparency.
To make matters worse for the officials, Township Manager Rose Licht essentially told a local reporter for MLive that Adams could have avoided arrest by simply obeying his government masters.
“He was asked to wrap it up by the township supervisor and he refused and continued to talk over him,” Licht said. “Several times the supervisor asked him to take a seat and he refused and the police department asked him to have a seat and took him out of the building.”
Township officials said that Adams’ anger at the local government stems from issues involving a vacant plot of land he owns and compliance with local ordinances.
A local resident who filmed the township’s silencing of the detractor provided a little background information along with the video:
This man has had a 3 year ongoing legal battle with this township board. It involves the violation of his property rights, continual harassment by the township officials. The Bridgeport Township board has a history of recalls, legal battles, court cases, this is not a one time occurrence for this township. This video is just another example of the abuse of power by this township and the police force.
On March 14, Adams pleaded not guilty to the charges that could put him behind bars for two years. He was released on a $7,500 bond. Details about the results of Adams’ preliminary hearing scheduled late Wednesday were not yet available by deadline of this article.