Injunction confirms right to comment about officials at Eastpointe council meetings

By: Brian Wells | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published December 19, 2022

File photo


EASTPOINTE — A United States District Court judge has issued an injunction, agreed to by the plaintiffs and defense in a lawsuit, that explains and enumerates multiple issues that the public can address during the public comment portion of Eastpointe’s City Council meetings.

On Dec. 7, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence G. Berg issued the injunction that states that “members of the public may direct and/or express comment, criticism or praise to and regarding public officials.”

The order states that those comments may be about, but are not limited to, the mayor and City Council, disputes between them, police matters and other matters of public concern. The injunction is to remain in effect until the disposition of the lawsuit or until there is another court order.

The injunction comes as a result of a lawsuit brought against Mayor Monique Owens and the city of Eastpointe by four residents who allege that their First Amendment rights were violated during public comment portions of multiple City Council meetings earlier this year. It was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Nov. 9 through the Philadelphia-based nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, or FIRE.

“This order protects the First Amendment right of our plaintiffs and all Eastpointers to peacefully criticize Mayor Owens and other public officials while the lawsuit proceeds,” FIRE attorney Conor Fitzpatrick said in a prepared statement. “The order also bars Mayor Owens and Eastpointe from prohibiting discussion of Mayor Owens’ disputes with other City Council members.”

Timothy Ferrand, who is listed in the court documents as representing Owens and the city of Eastpointe, could not be reached for comment.


Why the lawsuit was filed
A video of the Sept. 6 Eastpointe City Council meeting shows Owens arguing with Mary Hall-Rayford and Karen Beltz, two of the plaintiffs in the suit. The two used the public comment portion of the meeting to voice support for Councilman Harvey Curley, whom Owens had previously filed a personal protection order against after he allegedly attacked her at an event over the summer.

The PPO ultimately was denied by a Macomb County Circuit Court judge later in September.

At the Sept. 6 meeting, Owens tried to prevent the two Eastpointe women from speaking about Curley — Hall-Rayford said only positive things about Curley when she eventually got her time to speak — or the events that had transpired between her and Curley, which Beltz called “outrageous claims.” Toward the end of the public comment section, resident Karen Mouradjian — another plaintiff in the suit — tried to criticize the mayor’s treatment of the other two women but ultimately ended up arguing with Owens.

The Sept. 6 meeting ended after fewer than 20 minutes, when the city’s four other council members stood up and left amid the arguing.

Contact Staff Writer Brian Wells at (248) 291-7637 or