WARNING: This post is meant to annoy, offend, demean, ridicule, degrade, belittle, disparge, and humiliate the Vernon County Board. Shame on you..
This post is an infraction of a new Vernon County ordinance. The wording of the edict was chosen as a well intentioned effort to outlaw bullying via the internet, but as you can read, it misses the mark of that goal by several hundred yards. Maybe the board members were tired, maybe some were feeling the angst of the defeat of the GOP in the national elections, but the ordinance was passed two days after the election, and is now the law in Vernon County.
“Whoever sends information to another person by electronic means with the intent to annoy, offend, demean, ridicule, degrade, belittle, disparage or humiliate any person and which serves no legitimate purpose shall be required to forfeit not less than $50.00 nor more than $500 together with the cost of prosecution and in default of payment shall be sentenced to the County Jail until such forfeiture and costs are paid, not exceeding 30 days.” — Vernon County Ordinance 11/8/12
Free Speech curtailed in Vernon County
For instance: if a constituent writes an email or a blog post to County Clerk Ron Hoff, suggesting he is breaking Wisconsin Election Law by stating publicly that a Photo ID is necessary to vote, and Clerk Hoff is annoyed or offended, then the sender is liable to a fine of $50 – $500. What about Clerk Hoff? Recent history shows, he gets off with an apology.
The infraction of Ron Hoff really happened. The official web site of the County Clerk clearly stated that a photo ID was necessary to vote in Vernon County in all the days leading up to the Recall Election. Free Wisconsin blog noticed the “mistake” and reported it. The story was picked up by WKBT TV news. Hoff apologized claiming it was an oversight and the web site was taken down and changed. He was not charged or penalized for breaking the election law, he was not even fined from $50 -$500.
|“Do I need to bring identification?|
The same scenario under the new ordinance
If the same string of events were to occur in Vernon County today, Clerk Hoff could call the Sheriff and have the poster arrested under the wording of the new ordinance saying, “I am annoyed, offended, demeaned, ridiculed, degraded, belittled, disparged, and humiliated.” After he puts down his thesaurus, he could feel secure that the perpetrator of the crime would be arrested for exposing the web site. The perpetrator would be cited and fined, while he could watch the clouds spill across the sky through this office window.
Clearly, the ordinance as written, is an infringement of free speech and an embarrassment to the good people of Vernon County. In the meantime be careful not to annoy anyone in a email, it could cost you.