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Draper City mayoral candidate sues after city blocks him from walking in a parade

First Published      Last Updated Jul 14 2017 11:04 am

Draper Days » Incumbent mayor will walk in Saturday event; challenger says city violated his free-speech rights.

In 2015, an attorney advised the Draper City Council to bar political speech in the Draper Days Parade — though he noted that someone could "take a swipe at" the resolution with free speech litigation at any time.

That time is now.

Troy Martinez, a candidate for Draper mayor, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city and its manager, attorney and council members, as well as members of the Draper Community Foundation, after he was denied entry in this year's parade, which will take place Saturday.

"I want to make sure that people have the opportunity to see me as a candidate for mayor," he said. "I don't want to be silenced by this resolution or this policy from the city."




Martinez says Draper is violating his First Amendment rights; the city, which contributes money to the Foundation-run parade, says it's following a code that prohibits the use of public funds for political purposes, like campaigning.

"If a political candidate wanted to hand out handbills on the parade route, we allow that," said Maridene Alexander, a spokeswoman for Draper City. "Or if they want to purchase a booth at Draper Days — and a lot of them have done that — they can campaign over there."

However, incumbent council members or elected officials who may also be running campaigns are allowed to march in the parade "to honor their public service," so long as they don't advocate for re-election.

The lawsuit argues that by allowing politicians to participate, the city is doing exactly what it tried to avoid — the appearance of promoting particular candidates.

Mayor Troy Walker, one of Martinez's opponents, said he plans to walk in the parade. He declined to comment further, noting he was named in the lawsuit. Michele Weeks, another mayoral candidate and current councilwoman, will also be participating.

Weeks said she has had first hand experience with the issue Martinez is facing.

"A couple years ago when I was running for Draper City Council, I was not allowed to be in the parade," she said. "So I said, 'Can I be in the parade as Michelle Weeks, citizen?' And they said, 'Yes.' So what I did was I knew I couldn't campaign during the parade, so I just had magnets made up with my logo and it didn't say I was running for any office. I didn't hand out any information; all I did was hand out candy and shake people's hands."

But Martinez said he doesn't want to sacrifice what he sees as his free speech rights.

"Being in the parade itself is speech," he said. "Having that presence in a parade with other political candidates basically is what I'm trying to do, so that I get an opportunity just as [the other candidates] do."

Alexander said the city had not yet been served with the lawsuit as of Thursday afternoon.

With the parade slated for Saturday, there's not much time for action, but Angela Elmore, Martinez's lawyer, said he had been assigned a judge and they are hoping to have a resolution to the issue before then.

tstevens@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tstevens95

 

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