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Loudoun County chairwoman, Lansdowne resident meet in federal court

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large). File photo.
Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) and Lansdowne resident Brian Davison faced off in federal court Tuesday in a battle over the First Amendment in the social media age.

Over the last two years, Davison has filed three separate civil rights lawsuits against the Loudoun Board of Supervisors and Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman (R) and the Loudoun County School Board for either blocking him from their Facebook pages or deleting critical comments he posted.

The central question of Tuesday’s hearing was whether the chairwoman’s “Chair Phyllis J. Randall” Facebook page, the social media page Davison says he was temporarily blocked from, is Randall's official county government profile. The Lansdowne resident maintains it is.

“[Randall's] statement that her Chair Phyllis J. Randall Facebook page was her personal page was directly contradicted by her own Facebook postings at least four separate times,” Davison said in a statement following the Tuesday hearing, adding he thought the chairwoman was unethical.

When asked, Randall declined to comment on whether she thought the Facebook page in question was her official government social media page because the question was still pending the judge’s decision.

But Randall stressed she only uses her personal device to post on that Facebook page and has never used a county computer, county cell phone or asked any permanent county staff to help her with posts or be a part of her posts.

“I told the truth,” Randall said.

“I literally banned [Davison] overnight one night, and then the next morning I woke up and thought ‘You know what, no, I don’t want to do this,’ and I unbanned him,” Randall said. “He has never been banned since that one night, and I’ve never blocked him since then.”

County spokesman Glen Barbour told the Times-Mirror in March that the county is aware of at least one other individual who was temporarily banned from commenting on the county’s Facebook page. Barbour said the county has also deleted two or three people’s comments because they were deemed in violation of its social media comments policy.

In March U.S. District Judge James C. Cacheris ruled Plowman did not violate the First Amendment by deleting Davison’s Facebook posts.

Davison has since filed a motion to appeal that decision.

Judge Cacheris has yet to issue a formal ruling on Randall's case and has taken the suit under advisement.


See related coverage here:

-Loudoun resident files civil rights suits against county officials over social media censorship
-Federal judge sides with Loudoun commonwealth’s attorney in First Amendment suit

Comments


Every person’s view is valid? Perhaps in a contest where everyone gets a ribbon for participating but no one wins.

I say opinions are like sphincters. Merely having one doesn’t make yours noteworthy or deserving of my consideration.


Thank you very much SGP.  The naysayers posting here should remain grateful they enjoy free speech.  They should also be grateful that someone like you is willing to spend the time to protect such a right.


to all of you who make this a dem vs republican thing or liberal this and that. Try treating it as two Americans. Just once. Stop the partisanship..the minute you mention that we all stop “LISTENING”. every person’s view is valid. The end.


If this is the county’s FB page, no one should be banned from commenting.


I have an issue with anyone that uses their official title on an unofficial site.  If you are posting as the “Chair” than you are acting as the Chair.  Thus it is not a personal account.  The same way “President Trump” tweets as the President and not as a private citizen.


You are blocked from the schools because you disrupted meeting despite being warned to behave like an adult.  Apparently you vale your internet fame more than time with your kids.


SGP…I think liberals are, like their more conservative friends, tired of gas bags and people who beat dead horses to dust over and over again in public forums.  Sound like anyone you know?


Everyone should have their say, be they critical or be they supportive.  But let there be a reasonable limit of time and space consistently allotted to each individual in which to have their say.  End of story.


Note how supposedly “liberal” residents are speaking out against this legal action? Once upon a time, liberals valued free speech and opposed viewpoint discrimination. Not anymore. They look to see the views of the actor before taking a stand.

In the fall of 2016, the Republican governor of Maryland began to block his critics from his governor Facebook page. In Jan 2017, the ACLU threatened legal action on behalf of 6 liberal residents blocked from his page. Such action would have been identical to my case. Yet, not a single one of my critics has any problem with the ACLU taking action for liberals against a conservative governor. Note a little bit of hypocrisy here?

I am all for equality. I took both the Republican Commonwealth Attorney and the Democrat Chair to court for violating First And rights. And I am still blocked from 5 school. Oard member pages for asking them to follow the law regarding conflicts of interest and student privacy among other things.


If you want to see the deleted comment, just stick around. He copies and pastes the same rubbish over and over and over and over…


Hoping he loses then Randall should sue him for lost time and energy…


This guy must have no life and a lot of time on his hands.


ChocolateDinosaur, Randall deleted her own post and the associated contents.  The Virginia Public Records Act, FOIA, and the Loudoun County Government’s own “Use of Social Media” policy all require officials to archive such content.  Randall didn’t archive anything.  It’s similar to Hillary Clinton saying you can’t see her emails because they were deleted.  The comment doesn’t exist anymore. 

I posted comments on several social media pages that evening following the LEAP meeting, all consisting of criticism of the school board members for failing to disclose conflicts of interest while voting on the LCPS budget since their spouses would receive those raises as LCPS employees.  I also mentioned the irony of Randall’s push for an ethics pledge but willingness to turn a blind eye to the school board’s actions.

Of course, if we searched Randall’s emails, Facebook may have sent her an email with the comment.  But Randall has not voluntarily provided any such emails.


In many ways, this is a trial case for similar and much more serious claims against the Loudoun County School Board.  If Randall did not continue to assert, even today, she could block anyone from her social media page for any reason, this federal claim would have never been brought.  She unbanned me within ~24 hours and has not blocked anyone since.

However, 5 of the 9 school board members still block me on their Facebook page where they carry on conversations with the public over school board issues.  4 of the 9 schools board members were found by a special prosecutor to have violated the Conflict of Interest Act.  That same special prosecutor is now investigating additional charges against school board members.

The Maryland Governor has blocked dozens of his detractors on his Facebook page that is maintained by paid state staff.

This is really a very simple matter.  When gov’t officials open up forums such as social media pages for public comment, can they block those who criticize them?  Can they restrict questions to their sycophants?

Not discussed here is that officials are deleting public records in violation of the Public Records Act and FOIA.  If politicians deleted emails/texts from lobbyists (say a Republican Supervisor deleted a developer’s emails), would the same folks be saying “nothing to look at here”?  They might be singing a different tune if it were not their “leader” showing unethical conduct.


I’d like to see the comment that got Mr. SGP banned.


“It is interesting that the politician who campaigned on an “ethics pledge” is unwilling to publicly state whether her Chair Phyllis J. Randall Facebook page is an official or personal page to the press.”

Only to you, buddy. The rest of us are just here to see if you set any records for time & money wasted.


I cannot believe someone would go to such lengths against a very competent and excellent leader like Phyllis Randall.  Do you see now why the best and brightest don’t want to run for office in this country?


Check out Supervisor Randell’s FB page in order to confirm Brian Davidson’s meritless accusations?

Yea, I’ll be sure to get right on that, said no one who values their time.


It is interesting that the politician who campaigned on an “ethics pledge” is unwilling to publicly state whether her Chair Phyllis J. Randall Facebook page is an official or personal page to the press.

If you want to see what Randall posted on her Facebook page 4 separate times and was submitted as evidence at trial, visit my “Virginia SGP” page.

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